TVA dams avert an estimated $772 million in flood damages this month in Chattanooga

Photo by Dave Flessner / More than 1.2 million gallons per second pour through spillways at the Chickamauga Dam, raiding the Tennessee River level by more than 7 feet in Chattanooga on Friday, Feb. 7, 2019.

With February's rainfall total nearly 7 inches above normal in Chattanooga, the rain-swollen Tennessee River has remained at least 4 feet above its normal winter levels for most of the month in Chattanooga and has flooded low-lying areas around Savannah, Tennessee for weeks.

But without the network of 49 dams built and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority to help harness America's fifth biggest river, much of Chattanooga's downtown and low-lying areas would have been underwater. TVA estimates without its dams, the river would have risen 16 feet higher than it did in Chattanooga this month and caused an estimated $772 million of flood damage in Chattanooga.

"Without our dams, we estimate the river would have risen to about 15 feet above its flood stage so there would have been significant flooding throughout much of Chattanooga," said James Everett, senior manager of TVA's River Forecast Center in Knoxville.