Dams have an often overlooked, yet integral impact on our Tennessee way of life. Host Erick Baker and the rest of the crew set out to discover the importance of restoring connectivity in a waterway, the greater importance of the massive TVA system of water maintenance, and what the world looks like just below the water’s surface.

Mark Thurman, TWRA Region III Fisheries Program Manager, gets us started in our dam discussion with a look at how a crumbling concrete dam at Roaring River affects the waterway ecosystem. Sometimes removing impediments to natural water flow is the best course of action. Dr. Michael Freake, Associate Professor of Biology at Lee University, is on hand to explain how the Tennessee salamander known as the hellbender is an important indicator of the health of our state’s waterways.

TWRA Boating Officer Terry Moore invites us along on an 180-mile leg of the renowned Tennessee 600, a charity water ride spanning 600 miles of scenic Tennessee River.

This watery day trip from Chattanooga to Knoxville sparks Erick and the crew to learn more about the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), so they head to the River Forecast Center in Knoxville to speak to TVA River Management General Manager David Bowling. The intense coordination it takes to keep an eye on TVA’s waterways is amazing, but our next stop at Norris Dam is even better! There, Erik Bodiscomassink, TVA Plant Manager, tells us the many facets of water management through the eyes of TVA. We also get to take a dam tour, seeing what the huge concrete structure looks like on the inside!

After that part of today’s episode, we feel powered up to take the plunge! Now, it’s time for scuba instruction from Jimmie Wheeler, Ski Scuba Center owner/instructor.

At the end of the day, we have a well-rounded perspective on dams and Tennessee’s waterways. It’s all a matter of balance, and carefully considering when you need to maintain, and when you need to clean out and reconnect.

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