Corps of Engineers Enhances Caney Fork River Ecosystem with Center Hill Dam Orifice Gate Reinstallation

As part of an ongoing commitment to bolster the ecological health and recreational opportunities along the Caney Fork River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is pleased to announce a significant milestone in the operation of Center Hill Dam.

On Monday, June 10th, the Corps reinstalled the orifice gate at Center Hill Dam, which was previously removed in the fall for inspection. The reinstallation of the gate establishes a new summer/fall minimum flow regime. This pivotal initiative is aimed at enhancing the habitat of the renowned cold-water trout fishery situated below the dam on Caney Fork River, a prime destination for anglers hailing from across the region.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dive team members operate an Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to monitor and guide the Center Hill Dam orifice gate reinstallation as it is lowered by crane from the top of the dam.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dive team members operate an Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to monitor and guide the Center Hill Dam orifice gate reinstallation as it is lowered by crane from the top of the dam. USACE PHOTO BY MICHAEL DAVIS

 

“In response to substantial public input, the Corps has set a new seasonal minimum continuous flow of 250 cubic feet per second from the dam,” said Robert Dillingham, a hydraulic engineer from the Nashville District’s Water Management Section. “This strategic adjustment seeks to augment the wetted perimeter of the stream, mitigating the risk of elevated temperatures during periods of zero generation and thereby fostering a conducive environment for trout and other aquatic life.”

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The orifice gate, a critical component situated approximately 120 feet deep in the forebay, underwent removal for inspection last fall. High water levels delayed the initial plans for reinstallation by several weeks. However, with hydrologic conditions now favorable, the Corps was able to proceed with the reinstallation, effectively ensuring the stipulated minimum flow through November.

The process of reinstalling the orifice gate involved a collaborative effort, with a crane loaned from Wolf Creek Dam facilitating the lowering of the gate into place. A team of skilled mechanics from Center Hill Dam supervised the operation, ensuring precise attachment and alignment of the gate. Concurrently, Corps personnel aboard a watercraft deployed an underwater rover to monitor the proceedings beneath the surface, providing guidance to the crane operator and mechanics above.

Water flows through the newly reinstalled orifice gate at Center Hill Dam in Lancaster, Tennessee, June 10, 2024. The reinstallation of the gate by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers establishes a new summer/fall minimum flow regime aimed at enhancing the habitat of the renowned cold-water trout fishery situated below the dam on Caney Fork River.
Water flows through the newly reinstalled orifice gate at Center Hill Dam in Lancaster, Tennessee, June 10, 2024. The reinstallation of the gate by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers establishes a new summer/fall minimum flow regime aimed at enhancing the habitat of the renowned cold-water trout fishery situated below the dam on Caney Fork River. USACE PHOTO MICHAEL DAVIS

“Successfully installing this gate truly took a team effort involving several different sections from the Corps of Engineers,” said Kevin Salvilla, Center Hill Lake Resource Manager. “With safety always being at the forefront, everyone working on this project was able to perform their roles while working together to get the job done.”

This endeavor signifies a significant stride in the ongoing conservation efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, reaffirming its unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship and the preservation of cherished recreational resources.