Cooper passes Nashville flood prevention bill

    U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper campaigning at Cathedral of Praise in North Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)
    U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper campaigning at Cathedral of Praise in North Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    In 2010, Tennessee experienced a devastating flood, and Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper to prevent future flooding in Nashville. 

    “A decade ago, all of Nashville – East, West, South, and North Nashville – suffered a devastating flood, costing more than two dozen lives and billions of dollars in damages,” said Cooper.

    Nashville’s waterway system hasn’t changed in response to Nashville’s massive growth. Any attempts to change the waterway system could cost billions and repairs would take a decade, according to Rep. Cooper. 

    “Are we safer in 2020 than we were in 2010? Basically no,” he said.

    The bill seeks to allow two government-operated dams, Old Hickory Dam and Cordell Hull Dam, located upstream of Nashville, to be used for flood risk management as a cost-effective solution to decrease future flooding. The dams were previously not allowed to be used for flood control, even in emergencies, unless authorized by Congress. 

    “Contrary to common sense these dams today may not be used for flood control, even in emergencies, unless they have previously been congressionally authorized to do so,” he said. 

    Low-income neighborhoods are most at risk for flooding, since many are located downhill from floodplains. 

    Previously, the dams were only allowed to be used for navigation, recreation and hydropower.  Congressional authorization for the two dams had not been updated since 1946, despite “the massive growth of Nashville and numerous subsequent floods,” according to Cooper

    The bill is expected to pass in the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support through the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, which authorizes studies to provide guidance on agency practices.