Lawmakers urge probe into release of floodwater
Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 9:07 pm
By LUCAS JOHNSON II
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee state lawmakers want their congressional counterparts to investigate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ release of water during historic flooding in Middle Tennessee earlier this month.
The resolution sponsored by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville was unanimously approved on a voice vote by the House Finance Committee on Wednesday and will now be scheduled for a House floor vote.
The measure urges the Tennessee congressional delegation to investigate the Corps’ water releases and maintenence of dams and levees serving Tennessee and Kentucky.
Dams all around Middle Tennessee took on large amounts of water during the record rainfall the weekend of May 1-2. Nashville received a total of 13.5 inches over two days, causing lakes and rivers to swell with runoff.
Turner said he’s talked with counterparts in Kentucky who said the Corps “had to release water on us that they wouldn’t normally have had to release” due to maintenance problems with some of the dams in Kentucky.
“If they did release that water on us because of their failure to maintain their dams, I think they owe us more compensation down here,” he said. “So part of the damage here could be a man-made disaster, as opposed to a natural disaster.”
Carol Labashosky, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville, Ky., said she’s not familiar with the investigation, but that “the Corps is open and transparent about our water management practices.”
Turner said he wants other members of the state congressional delegation to join U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, who has also called for an investigation.
Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that the release of water from a dam upstream of Nashville during the flooding prompted a U.S. Senate inquiry into whether the public was adequately warned about rising waters downstream.
The Corps said the controlled release of water from Old Hickory Dam that weekend prevented the lake from spilling over the dam and flooding Nashville with an additional four feet of water.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has asked for a hearing on how well the corps and other state and federal agencies delivered information to businesses and individuals in the midst of the flooding that killed nine in Nashville alone.
Alexander said he wants to ensure that officials are taking the right steps to control floods and to keep people informed.
Gov. Phil Bredesen has said communication about the flooding could have been better, but he had no reason to believe there were errors in the releasing of the water.
Also being proposed in the Tennessee Legislature is a measure that would give a tax break to flood victims who are qualified under the Federal Emergency Management Agency to purchase building materials and major appliances.
“I think it’s a very reasonable thing to do,” said House Minority Leader Gary Odom, a Nashville Democrat and sponsor of the bill. “We’ve got people who have lost most everything they own.”
Read HJR1221 at http://www.capitol.tn.gov.
Associated Press Writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger 5.20.10