Norris Dam was not the first Dam built to provide electricity on the Tennessee River or it's tributaries, so why is it important? Norris Dam was the first major project of the newly created Tennessee Valley Authority. Construction of Norris Dam began in 1933, just a few months after the creation of TVA, and was completed in 1936. When the dam was completed, it provided the largest reservoir on a tributary of the Tennessee River.
The Norris Dam project displaced from 2,9003 to 3,500 families consisting of approximately 14,000 people and required the removal of 5,000 graves. The Norris Dam project was massive it it's scope and in it's impact on the families in the region.
Some photographs by Lewis Wilkes Hine can be seen on this blog, Lewis Wickes Hine, TVA & CCC – Pt 1. Also see Part 2 and be sure to read the first hand account of Virgie Brewer Perry in Part 2 or direct link here: Memories Along Clinch River.
The following dams that are now contolled by the TVA were built before the Norris Dam project. The ones marked with an asterisk are part of the Muscle Shoals area. Muscle Shoals is in Middle Tennessee, but these dams are included because of their impact of the creation on the Tennessee Valley Authority. This list is not meant to be a study of the dam projects, but is simply a list from Wickipedia that has been put in chronilogical order.
Ocoee Dam No. 1 (1911)
Wilbur Dam (1912)
Wilbur Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Watauga River in Carter County, in the U.S. state of Tennessee. It is one of two dams on the river owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The dam impounds Wilbur Lake, which extends for about 3 miles (4.8 km) up the Watauga to the base of Watauga Dam. Completed in 1912, Wilbur Dam was one of the first major hydroelectric projects in Tennessee, and remains one of the oldest dams in the TVA system (only Ocoee Dam No. 1 is older).
Wilbur Dam is a concrete gravity overflow dam 77 feet (23 m) high and 375 feet (114 m) long, and has a generating capacity of 10,700 kilowatts. The dam's spillway has four radial gates with a combined discharge of 34,000 cubic feet per second (960 m3/s). The dam is located at just over 34 miles (55 km) above the mouth of the Watauga, a few miles upstream from Elizabethton, Tennessee.
In 1907, the Doe River Light & Power Company began purchasing land rights for construction of Wilbur Dam, although the company struggled with finances and sold the project to the Watauga Power Company in 1910. Watauga Power completed the dam in just two years, and found a ready market for the dam's electricity at nearby Elizabethton. In 1927, the dam was purchased by the Tennessee Central Service Company, which changed its name to East Tennessee Light & Power Company two years later. The flood of August 1940 overtopped the dam and destroyed its powerhouse, and five years later, East Tennessee Light & Power sold its assets, including Wilbur Dam, to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Wilbur Dam was originally equipped with a flashboard-controlled spillway (similar to nearby Nolichucky Dam). In 1947, TVA outfitted the dam with a new gate-controlled spillway and raised it 5 feet (1.5 m) to accommodate the tailwaters of Watauga Dam, which was then nearing completion.
Ocoee Dam No. 2 (1913)
Nolachucky Dam (1912-1913)
Nolichucky Dam was built by the Tennessee Eastern Electric Company (TEEC) in 1912-1913 for hydroelectricity generation. The dam was initially equipped with two generators, and TEEC added two more in 1923. In 1941, the East Tennessee Light & Power Company obtained ownership of the dam when it purchased TEEC's assets. The Tennessee Valley Authority purchased East Tennessee Light & Power in 1945 for a lump sum that included $1.47 million for Nolichucky Dam. TVA made various improvements, and at its height, the dam was capable of producing 10,640 kilowatts of electricity. TVA used the dam for power generation until 1972, when sediment buildup in Davy Crockett Lake made continued electricity generation impractical. The dam and reservoir are now used for flood control and recreation; the reservoir is a wildlife management area.
Cheoah Dam (1916)
The Cheoah project began in 1916 as a construction camp at the Narrows where the Little Tennessee River flowed through a narrow gorge, and was completed in 1919. the first of several constructed by the Tallassee Power Company, now Tapoco.
Wilson Dam (1918-1924)*
Construction on Wilson Dam began in 1918 and was completed in 1924 under supervision of Hugh L. Cooper. The Wilson Dam actually predates the TVA, but was later placed under the authority of the TVA. The dam is 137 feet (42 m) high and stretches 4,541 feet (1,384 m) across the Tennessee River. The cost to build the dam was almost $47 million.
Blue Ridge Dam (1925-1931)
Blue Ridge Dam was built by the Toccoa Electric Power Company, a subsidiary of the Tennessee Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operated several hydroelectric plants in nearby Tennessee, including Ocoee Dam No. 1 and Ocoee Dam No. 2. Construction began in 1925, and the dam went into operation July 1, 1931. At the time of its completion, the dam had a generating capacity of 20 megawatts and was the most modern power dam in the TEPCO system, requiring a staff of just six employees. Subsequent upgrades have increased the dams generating capacity to 22 megawatts.
With the passage of the TVA Act in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority was given oversight of the Tennessee River watershed (which included the Toccoa River). TEPCO challenged the constitutionality of the TVA Act in federal court, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in 1939, and TEPCO was forced to sell its assets to TVA for $78 million in August of that year. This sum included $5 million for Blue Ridge Dam.
Soon after the dam began operations in 1931, its penstock partially collapsed. To prevent this from happening again, TVA has severely lowered the water level in the reservoir when it conducts periodic dam inspections (approximately once every five years), which require dewatering of the penstock. A project was initiated in 2010 to repair the penstock, stabilize the intake tower base, and repair and stabilize the upstream and downstream faces of the dam, thus eliminating the future need for severe reservoir drawdowns.
Calderwood Dam (1930)
|Photo by Brian Stansberry|
Norris Dam (1933)