Wet winter clogs lakes with destructive debris

6:03 PM, Mar 11, 2013   |    comments
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Heavy rain poured on much of East Tennessee throughout Monday.  This year heavy precipitation is nothing new for our area.  This winter registers as one of the wettest in a very long time in Knoxville. 

All of the rain this winter sent a lot more of everything into lakes and waterways.  The downpours have dislodged loads of debris and sent it into the Tennessee River and Fort Loudoun Lake.

"I've been boating on this lake for 35 years. This is the worse I've ever seen," said Jake Hudson, zone manager for the Fort Loudoun Lake Association.  "There's a lot more water and a lot more junk."

Hudson cleans debris along the shore and mid-stream.

"There's trash, dangerous logs, and anything else we find."

This year Hudson is finding a lot more than normal.  TVA normally drops the lake levels considerably during the winter months.  This year the lake levels have soared and sent a deluge of debris into the waterways. 

"You get these all-time high levels and they float things that have been on the bank for 10 years," said Hudson.

"So what does that do? That goes up and grabs all the debris, all the trees and sticks that have fallen through winter storms and puts it into the river," said Angela Howard, executive director of the Fort Loudoun Lake Association.  "This year is undoubtedly the highest winter water levels we have ever seen.  Normally, TVA drops the water level but they have not been able to because that would sent too much water downstream and flood Chattanooga."

The steady supply of logs and debris destroyed a diverter designed to safely send logs away from boat docks as they float downstream. 

"Too much trash put too big a strain on it and sank it. You can see the logs piled up against the dock over there. This creates a strain on the dock," said Hudson.

"It's not so much what you see because you can steer around logs and things that are visible.  It's what you don't see.  Those are called Tennessee alligators. The big large things that float around three inches under the water and take a bite out of your boat," said Howard.

"That's the major big danger, hitting a log at speed and tearing up your propeller.  Then you're in the water helpless. If you get a hole in your boat, then you've got another problem," said Hudson.

Hudson continues to fight the upstream battle to keep the lake clear, safe, and viable as one of the area's main attractions.

"This is our water supply.  It is one of the main tourist attractions.  The Vol Navy fills this place up in football season.  Having a clean river that is safe is good for the economy and it's good for the health of the city."

The Fort Loudoun Lake Association wants your help with spring cleaning.  The organization has scheduled events throughout March for the public to pick up trash at various sites along the lake.   On March 16 the group will hold a river cleanup at Concord Park and do the same at Admiral Farragut Park on March 23.  The full schedule can be found at their website, www.fflake.org.

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