Lawmaker: Ky. Sen. Pressured Corps About Dam - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmaker: Ky. Sen. Pressured Corps About Dam


Tennessee Rep. Mike Turner says a dam in Kentucky is impacting how much water is dumped into the Cumberland River. 

Turner, whose district includes the Donelson and Opryland area, said he doesn't doubt that the record rainfall on May 1-2 contributed to the historic flooding in Nashville. However, he also leaves open the possibility that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could have made the flooding worse by forcing water on Nashville. 

"That's because the Corps of Engineers didn't maintain the Wolf Creek Dam and other dams up river, that they possibly had to release water on us that was unnecessary," said Turner. 

Turner is concerned about how water from the Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky is released into Tennessee. 

"If they did release that water on us because of a failure to maintain their dams, I think they owe us more compensation down here." 

The problems with Wolf Creek Dam, including water seeping through its foundation, have been well documented over the years. 

Turner believes Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell put pressure on the Corps not to quickly fix the dam. 

"We have heard through reliable sources that possible pressure was put on the Corps of Engineers by Mitch McConnell and members of the Kentucky delegation to slow that down." 

Turner said fixing the dam would require dropping lake levels, and that isn't politically popular for boaters. 

Therefore, Turner said, since the dam hasn't been repaired and can't handle all the water it should, it has to release more water downstream, ending up in Nashville. 

"I would tell you that we operate our locks and dams with public safety in mind, not associated with political interest in any means," said Lt. Col. Anthony Mitchell of the Army Corps of Engineers. 

"The water released from Wolf Creek is a good three days from Nashville. So water we were releasing up to the event didn't get here in enough time for the crest," said Bob Sneed, also of the Corps. 

"If I'm wrong, I apologize," said Turner. "But if I'm right, it needs to be investigated and we need to be compensated." 

McConnell's office said Wednesday that he has fully funded every request the corps made to fix Wolf Creek Dam. 

A meeting was held Tuesday night at McGavock High School to help flood victims in the Donelson area get the help they need. Turner hosted the community meeting. FEMA and the Small Business Administration were also there to explain what federal funds are available. 

Most homeowners at the meeting lost everything, and many are trying to figure out how to get to the next step in the recovery process. The Donelson area was particularly hard hit by the rising Cumberland River on May 2. 

Turner said he saw the damage the night of the flooding once the rain finally settled down and the dangers the Cumberland River still posed to his district. 

"I was on the Black Hawk (helicopter) flight with Gov. Bredesen and Congressman Cooper and the FEMA director. We went around and surveyed the city of Nashville. The water in Bellevue was going down, (but) it was still rising in the Opryland area and Old Hickory. I have a real concern about that," he said. 

Rep. Jim Cooper has already initiated a congressional investigation into the Corps' handling of the water release. 

Reporter Alan Frio contributed to this story.