Corps: Lower Mississippi River levels would be lower - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Corps: Lower Mississippi River levels would be lower if not for 'twin rivers'

MEMPHIS, TN (KFVS) -

The lower Mississippi River would be four feet lower if not for water storage reservoirs, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps says the reservoirs of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and their tributaries provide a stream of water management benefits.

Water is being released at a rate of 41,000 cubic feet per second from the Tennessee River and 12,000 cfs from the Cumberland River.

According to water managers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville and Memphis Districts, the Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins represent about six percent of the drainage area above Memphis.

But they say the basins are providing half of the water flowing in the lower Ohio River, and one third of the water flowing in the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tenn.

"The level on the Mississippi River would absolutely be at a historical low if it were not for the water from the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers," said David Berretta, chief of the Memphis District Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch.

Water managers say the system of dams and reservoirs were built to provide water resources during months of limited rainfall, which is proving its worth now during a drought throughout the middle of the country.

"The ability of our reservoir system projects to store water has made it possible for the Cumberland River to pay a big role in supporting water levels on the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers" said Bob Sneed, Nashville District Water Management Section chief.

The Nashville District operates Barkley Dam in Grand Rivers, Ky., which is the last downstream dam on the Cumberland River.

The Tennessee Valley Authority operates Kentucky Dam, also in Grand Rivers, Ky., which is the last downstream dam on the Tennessee River.

Officials say the two dams on the Twin Rivers, in conjunction with the dams upstream, can either hold water or pass water as necessary in support of water management requirements that support the nation's overall system of waterways.

According to the Corps, the Mississippi River in Memphis is at its fourth lowest level since record keeping began in the 1920s. The levels of the Mississippi River and Ohio River at their confluence in Cairo, Ill., are at the 12th lowest level since record keeping began in the 1870s, and sixth lowest level since the system of modern dams was constructed.

Berretta said that as of this morning, the Cairo gage at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers is 8.1 feet.  The record low at this location was -10.7 feet in 1988.

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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