County finds solutions for excess runoff

Rylie McClurgOur Town Outdoors, West Knox County

Knox County Engineering and Public Works district crews have been all over the county removing debris, pumping water and helping those stuck by flood water. This amount of rain is something that we are starting to see more consistently at this time of year, and we are working to find solutions to manage the flow of stormwater away from homes and structures to keep our community safe.

Bluegrass Lake was formed when Fort Loudoun Dam was built and described as a “marginal drainage area” in historic Tennessee Valley Authority documents. When Fort Loudoun Lake was filled, this area and many others along the banks of the Tennessee River were anticipated to experience problems with drainage.

Back in the 1950s, a series of floods in this area prompted both the TVA and Knox County to carve out a culvert that connected the lake with Fort Loudoun Lake. When Bluegrass Lake level rose to a certain elevation, it would overflow through the long pipe and into the lake underneath Pellissippi Parkway. Bluegrass Lake was also connected to Fort Loudoun Lake through an underground cavern. This meant that the lake level could drop much lower than culvert opening. This lowering of the water level meant that Bluegrass Lake could receive a heavy volume of spring rains without overflowing.

Over time, sediment reduced the capacity of the cavern to drain Bluegrass Lake to its normal “winter pool” level. This means that when we receive 5.22 inches of rain over a 7-day period, as we have this past week, the water level rises faster than it can drain. Houses that surround Bluegrass Lake are threatened by the rising waters, as are businesses and major roads like S. Northshore Drive.

In 2021, Knox County Engineering and Public Works purchased a large, portable pump. This is used to move water in emergencies. Since Wednesday, February 23, this pump has been operating continuously at Bluegrass Lake at a rate of around 4,000 gallons per hour and is able to keep the water levels below the elevation where roads and homes would be impacted. Our crews have been posted onsite around the clock, replenishing the pump with gasoline, and ensuring safe conditions. Thank you to all our hardworking public works staff for their dedication to our community.

For the first time in 20 years, Knox County is creating an in-depth plan for the future of the county. The plan is called Advance Knox and Knox County EPW is proud to be a participant. Planning for growth will help our county avoid reactionary responses to traffic and other pressures and will help us anticipate new growth coming to our beautiful county. Several committees have been established to provide guidance to the consultants hired to facilitate the plan. These committees met for the first time last week to start the discussion of opportunities they see that need to be met. This process will take 18 months, and we will be reaching out to the public with special events throughout the process. Be on the look out for information about the first event at the end of March!

Here are some photos from the past week:

Rylie McClurg is the communications and outreach coordinator for Knox County Engineering and Public Works

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