Recent heavy rains in East Tennessee forced the Oak Ridge Rowing Association to cancel the Dogwood Junior Championship Regatta that was planned for this weekend.
It comes after the Tennessee Valley Authority opened Norris Dam's spillway gates for the first time in four years.
The downstream surge caused the water flow at Melton Lake to exceed 10 times its normal current, sending debris down the river that damaged the rowing course's lane system.
Jim Rogers, chairman of the Oak Ridge Rowing Association’s Regatta Committee, spent the last three months designing the course.
"As soon as we heard TVA was going to open the spillways, we went out and we pulled as many buoys as we could, but we just didn't have time," Rogers said. "All the sudden I have a 500 meter cable cascading down the river that's got all these buoys tied to it."
Rogers said crews were working every daylight hour to salvage as many buoys and cables as possible. He estimated a $20,000 loss in course equipment in addition to losing out on an estimated $10,000 in profits.
"I worked on this course since January, and it's just gone. The impact to people, the people who are here every week ... it's just unimaginable," he said.
The competition was slated to bring 3,000 visitors and rowers from across the region. The rowing association said 35 teams, each with anywhere from 40 to 60 members, had registered for the event throughout the southeast.
The ORRA has offered to reimburse all regatta entries that teams paid.
Explore Oak Ridge President Marc DeRose said rowing brings an annual $2 million boost to East Tennessee.
"Oak Ridge has national acclaim as one of the top rowing venues in the country," he said "The Dogwood Regatta is one of the largest youth regattas in the southeast."
In a letter to coaches, ORRA said after consulting with the Tennessee Valley Authority and U.S. Coast Guard, officials determined the water flow rate would be too high for safe rowing.
TVA spokesperson Travis Brickey said Norris Dam could spill for up to 14 more days. He said the agency is "managing a tremendous amount of water" and has to manage the entire system.
Brickey said the agency is working to minimize the impact of downstream flooding, and it has to bring Norris's water levels down in case of another rain event.
The city of Oak Ridge is still holding a dedication event for the new 8th rowing lane on Melton Hill Lake Friday at 3 p.m.