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Flood data reveals USACE projects prevented $180 million in damages in Cumberland River Basin

This map shows the difference between the reduced flood impacts experienced in the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, on the Cumberland River in early May 2024 with estimated impacts (shown in red) if USACE dam storage projects were not in operation.

Posted on May 22, 2024

A preliminary analysis of data from the early May high-water event in middle Tennessee, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, has revealed that USACE projects reduced flood damage by an estimated $180 million.

During a period of peak inflow to Corps of Engineers dams and reservoirs due to heavy rain on May 8-10, Nashville District flood storage projects including J. Percy Priest, Wolf Creek, Dale Hollow and Center Hill dams directly prevented the Cumberland River communities of Celina, Carthage, and metropolitan Nashville from reaching flood stage.

“These locks and dams performed as designed throughout this event, safeguarding lives and property across the Cumberland River basin,” said Lt. Col. Robert Green, USACE Nashville District commander. “Many of these projects are over 75 years old and it’s critical that we continue to invest in our inland waterway infrastructure and build upon the trust with the communities we serve.”

The Corps of Engineers manages 10 dams and four locks in the Cumberland River Basin that serve as a unified system, intended to stabilize the river, ensure navigation, and reduce flood risk. Nashville District reservoirs in the Cumberland River Basin stored approximately 965,000 acre-feet of water during the high-water event, or about enough to flood an area the size of Nashville to a depth of three feet.

This stored water allowed the Corps to lower Cumberland River flood levels by about 22 feet at Celina, 17 feet at Carthage, and eight feet at Nashville. The reservoir system prevented all three cities from reaching Moderate Flood Stage. Even at Clarksville, well downstream of the storage reservoirs, water levels were lowered by almost 1.5 feet.

“Due to this storage capability and reduction in flood stages downstream, we estimate that USACE projects prevented about $180 million in flood damages,” said Clint Neel, acting chief of the Water Management Section at the USACE Nashville District. “We will continue to monitor weather reports, reservoir levels, and operational data from our dams and locks to ensure the system keeps operating as intended.”

Though rainfall and inflow have subsided, water levels along the Cumberland River remain elevated and are moving with strong, fast currents. The public is strongly encouraged to postpone recreation along the river and be cautious when visiting USACE lakes. As always, local residents are encouraged to monitor emergency channels in local communities for information about current and expected risk conditions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District manages the Cumberland River and its tributaries, balancing the demands of water releases for flood risk management, commercial navigation, production of hydropower, recreation, fish and wildlife, water supply and water quality.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at Follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Nashville District employment and contracting opportunities at

Old Hickory Dam in Hendersonville, Tennessee, releases water downstream on the Cumberland River May 9, 2024. A preliminary analysis of flood data by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District from the early May high-water event in middle Tennessee, revealed USACE dam projects in the Cumberland River Basin reduced flood damages by an estimated $180 million.

Center Hill Dam’s spillways release water May 15, 2024, into the Caney Fork River in Lancaster, Tennessee.


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