published Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Project to boost Big Fiery Gizzard Reservoir

Tommy McFarland, general manager of the Tracy City Public Utility, stands on the upstream side of the Big Fiery Gizzard Dam at the point where water levels will reach after the dam is raised 7 feet. The footprint of the reservoir will almost double after the work.
Tommy McFarland, general manager of the Tracy City Public Utility, stands on the upstream side of the Big Fiery Gizzard Dam at the point where water levels will reach after the dam is raised 7 feet. The footprint of the reservoir will almost double after the work.
Photo by Ben Benton.

BY THE NUMBERS

$5.5 million: Approximate total project cost

$4.972 million: USDA grant and loan funding

$500,000: Community Development Block Grant

680,000 gallons: Current reservoir supply capacity

600,000 gallons: Supply increase

40 acres: Newly inundated land surrounding reservoir

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development

TRACY CITY, Tenn. — The Big Fiery Gizzard Reservoir in southeastern Grundy County will almost double in size and capacity once a $5.5 million dam-raising project is complete.

Officials are studying two ideas for raising the dam, Public Utility General Manager Tommy McFarland said Friday. One is to use rock removed from the existing spillway to build up the dam; the other is to top it with a concrete wall.

The top of the dam will be raised seven feet, increasing the reservoir's storage capacity by about 176 million gallons and boosting supply capacity by 600,000 gallons a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The improvements will help Tracy City better withstand the drought and accommodate future demand from population growth, officials said.

The work is funded by a $4.972 million USDA Rural Development loan and grant package, announced in June, and a $500,000 community development block grant. The Tracy City Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Thursday approved a resolution to issue a $3.234 million bond as part of project funding.

The USDA loan figure stands a little high at $4.972 million because $500,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission funding was placed into a contingency for land acquisition, McFarland said.

The next step is appraising that land, he said. The project will affect 20 or 21 properties, he said.

McFarland said Lonnie Layne is the landowner most affected.

Layne will lose part of his yard, and he'll have to move a mobile home and reroute his driveway. A nearby homeowner will see the reservoir come within 50 feet of his home, McFarland said.

Layne, who has 10.5 acres on the reservoir, said he understands why the project is being done but he's not thrilled with the problems it will cause him.

"I'd rather it stayed like it was. But that's progress, you know," he said, taking a break from mowing Friday.

"See that flag there, and there? It will come right across there," Layne said pointing out the path the new water line will carve through his property.

Layne said he didn't think the need for the dam was immediate, despite the drought. But there could be future demand from population growth, he said.

Bobby Goode, USDA Rural Development state director, said in a news release that safe, reliable drinking water and wastewater treatment "are both vital to the future of every healthy community."

"Making these infrastructure investments puts people to work now and lays the foundation for sustainable economic growth in the region through the next generation," Goode said.

Construction of the 58-acre Big Fiery Gizzard reservoir was completed in 1997 with a supply capacity of 680,000 gallons a day, records and newspaper archives show.

The project also will expand capacity of the water treatment plant to 2 million gallons a day, officials said.

About 40 acres will be inundated by the higher dam, but "the few homes near the shore are well beyond the new high-water line," officials said.

McFarland said about half the 40 acres affected by the project already belongs to the utility.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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