Higher water levels carrying extra trash
Several inches of rain this weekend resulted in higher water levels, which picked up the extra trash and debris now cluttering East Tennessee waterways.
"It's spring, so all the dead wood is getting pushed out by the new wood," said Fort Loudoun Lake Association Executive Director Angela Howard. "So anything that's fallen over the winter that's along the sides, it all got washed down."
Volunteers with FLLA handle clean-up along more than 50 linear miles of waterway, and were very busy Monday.
Asher Freemon helps clean a zone near Concord Marina and the Fort Loudoun Dam.
"It's definitely seasonal, and it's getting worse," he said. "Basically anything that's near the river will go in the river."
Howard explains, the debris and trash is more than just a nuisance.
"It's not so much what you can see, because you can dodge that. It's what you can't see. Logs get heavy with water and they float three inches to a foot under the water. There's no way you can see them, and we remove them because they are very dangerous."
Howard says runoff from parking lots and sidewalks also drags trash into the water, and encourages people to remember not to litter.
TVA's river forecasting team was also busy this weekend, as water levels continued to rise.
"It's resulting in a lot of high flows below many of our tributary projects," said River Forecasting Manager Tom Barnett.
"Right now we're increasing flows, getting water moving water through the system and as those inflows fall off, we'll get water out of the tribs were we stored them and recover our flood storage capacity," he said. TVA officials increased flows at Watts Bar, Fort Loudoun, and Chickamauga on Saturday.
"So we are about two to three times normal for rates out of Fort Loudoun. Down at the end of the river, on Kentucky Reservoir, we're releasing over 1.1 million gallons per second. So, [there are] significantly higher release rates as we go down throughout the valley."
Barnett says the higher water levels have put TVA ahead of schedule for most of their "fill projects," like getting water to summer pool levels. The extra water also allows for better-than-average hydro-generation numbers.