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Answers about the Boone Lake Drawdown

"I won't speculate on how long lake levels will be low at this point. TVA intends to repair Boone Dam and refill Boone Lake. Boone Lake is a top-level priority for TVA. But we have two overarching issues—our first issue is safety; our second is the need to do it right. We don't want to be back here 10 years from now telling the community we have to do it all over again."

—Bill Johnson,
CEO, Tennessee Valley Authority
Speaking at Boone Dam on April 28, 2015

Weekly Updates

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Question and Answers

Why is Boone Lake so low?

In October 2014, TVA’s Boone Dam employees discovered a sinkhole along the earthen embankment near the base of Boone Dam. This sinkhole was repaired, but then TVA inspectors discovered sediment and water seeping from the river bank just below the dam. Because water and sediment seeping from the area is not common and can be a sign of more serious issues, as a safety measure, TVA quickly accelerated its winter drawdown and lowered the level of Boone Lake to about 10 feet below normal winter pool levels to reduce pressure on the dam.

In early February 2015, TVA, in consultation with other dam safety experts, met to help quantify risks, confirm analyses and guide its actions. After that meeting, TVA announced that Boone Lake will not be returned to normal operating levels until the source of the seepage can be identified, and a solution can be implemented.


What is the current status of the dam?

Safety of the public and our employees is TVA’s top priority. TVA is continuously monitoring Boone Dam to identify any changes in its condition. This monitoring and assessment data indicate the dam is not in any immediate danger and is structurally sound. However, recent investigations indicate that, under normal lake levels, erosion may be occurring deep beneath the dam’s earthen portions and, if not repaired, could worsen and threaten the stability of the dam’s earthen areas.


What work has been done at Boone?

Here are a few completed and ongoing actions:

  • Filled and repaired initial sinkhole along earthen embankment
  • Installed advanced instrumentation
  • Placed temporary filter along the riverbank near Boone Dam’s Unit 1 to help control soil erosion and to capture sediment
  • Deployed an unmanned, remotely-operated submarine (with sonar technology) to assess underwater conditions 
  • Drilled core samples to study earthen embankment and foundation conditions
  • Used radar and geophysical instruments to determine underground and underwater conditions
  • Collaborating with industry experts from around the world to thoroughly analyze the situation
  • Placing safety buoys in designated areas of Boone Lake
  • Using laser to monitor earthen embankment stability


What is TVA’s next step?

TVA’s investigation into seepage at Boone Dam’s earthen embankment continues. TVA dam safety experts, along with other industry experts, are analyzing data obtained from extensive testing to determine a permanent repair. TVA plans to make an announcement later this summer regarding the repair and how the project will impact Boone Lake. The lake will remain at its current level for the remainder of this year and possibly longer.

Have other dams faced a similar issue?

Yes. Sediment seepage is an uncommon, but not unheard of occurrence. At other dams that have experienced seepage in the past, the source has been identified and the dams have been successfully repaired. These dams include TVA’s Tims Ford Dam (Tenn) and Bear Creek Dam (Ala); the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Wolf Creek Dam (Ky), which completed repairs for this type problem in 2013; and Center Hill Dam (Tenn), which is near completion.


What would happen if the dam failed?

Though it is highly unlikely, TVA has worked with counties, states, the National Weather Service and a host of other partners to prepare for such an event. If surveillance or instrumentation ever signaled an impending dam failure, TVA has Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) in place and would immediately notify affected counties to begin evacuations and the National Weather Service to broadcast a Dam Failure Flood Warning to the public.


Am I allowed to use a metal detector on TVA land, or collect artifacts from TVA land?

In order to preserve our cultural resources, the use of metal detectors on TVA property is prohibited. Read more about TVA's policy.


Can Boone Lake property owners deny individuals the right to cross the dry lake area if the owner states his property rights extend into the lake to the original stream or river flow area?

Yes. The majority of Boone Lake properties (above and below water) are privately owned, and TVA has no jurisdiction in this matter. These situations become private trespass issues, and local law enforcement may need to be involved.

Property owners should be reminded that, if they decide to use certain measures to prevent trespassing (i.e., signage, fencing, etc.), those measures could become subject to TVA’s Section 26a, which requires TVA approval be obtained before any construction is carried out along the shoreline of TVA lakes or in the Tennessee River or its tributaries.

How is TVA working with residential Boone Lake property owners to provide reasonable access during the drawdown?

TVA will consider all requests for temporary and/or permanent dock facilities on Boone Lake to provide back-lying residential property owners the opportunity to access the lake during the drawdown. A Section 26a permit application should be submitted to TVA for any proposed construction along the shoreline. TVA will waive application fees associated with processing the 26a applications for these proposed improvements.




Read more about Boone Dam



Press Kit

Press release

Boone Fact sheet

Boone overlook

B-roll video


Facts & Figures

Construction of Boone Dam began in 1950 and was completed in 1952.

The dam is 160 feet high and stretches 1,697 feet across the South Fork Holston River.

In a year with normal rainfall, the water level in Boone Reservoir varies about 25 feet from summer to winter to provide seasonal flood storage.

The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 75,800 acre-feet.

Boone Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has three generating units with a net dependable capacity of 89 megawatts. Net dependable capacity is the amount of power a hydroelectric dam can produce on an average day, minus the electricity used by the dam itself.

More information on Boone Reservoir

Operating guide

Daily reservoir operation information

Sportfish survey results

Sportfish ratings

Ecological health ratings

Tailwater improvements

Recreation facilities


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