Bluegrass Lake Update

Bluegrass Lake Update
When the lake rose last week and once again threatened to breach its banks, we sent a list of questions to the Knox County Engineering Department. They have replied. We have also gathered detailed current and historic information from neighbors along the lake who understandably, are closely monitoring the situation. Our thanks to all for helping us to provide a better understanding to the wider community.
The Problem
Nearby construction in the last decade or so, with related blasting apparently dislodged boulders that may be obstructing the underground cavern into which the lake drained successfully since the 1950’s. (Whittington Creek residents have reported unexplained rumbling noises in recent years). There is an underground spring in the cavern that at times back flowed into the lake but the cavern acted as a natural reservoir and prevented flooding until recently.
Increased runoff and siltation, exacerbated by the addition of many, many new hard surfaces in the lake’s catchment area complicate the problem. Doubtless, the lake itself has also become more shallow. The two original galvanized culverts, one on each side of the cavern, are believed to be compromised and tending to fill with debris when flooding brings large amounts downstream from the six mile lake catchment area.
The Fix
The proposed fix for the lake is estimated to cost $13 million.
What is intended is reworking the culverts but continuing to pump water from the lake UP to the culverts which cross Keller Bend Road and drop only slightly before emptying into Ft. Loudon Lake near Fort Loudon Yacht Club. Apparently, renovations to add enough drop to eliminate the need for pumping are too costly for the County to consider.
The Funding Issue
Unsurprisingly, the County does not have
$13 million for the proposed fix. Additionally, the County faces many, many other flooding and drainage problems county-wide .
Outcries from very concerned neighbors when the County announced last week that it was removing the mobile pump currently being used to try to hold down the lake level revealed that the pump is not only needed elsewhere, but that it requires constant monitoring. The County has been paying staff overtime to monitor it. Pumps previously used to hold the level down actually belonged to Lenoir City Utility Board and are no longer available.
The convergence of Keller Bend Road, Hunter Valley Lane and the overhead crossing of the Pellissippi Parkway at the Lake’s discharge point led to some fiscal responsibility finger pointing and probably contributed greatly to the delays the community has struggled to understand.
The Delays
The funding issue, along with assessment of the problem as the county has probed other funding sources seems to account for much of the years’ long delay in repairs.
At this point the City of Knoxville is cooperating in funding and some of the construction is underway. The County is now in the process of appealing to the state to approve the project for eligibility for a part of the Federal Covid Relief Infrastructure funding. It is our understanding that funding is still in question as the project is viewed as a flooding issue and apparently does not strictly qualify under water quality improvement guidelines.