Title page for ETD etd-10312008-085847

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Estis, Willis Scott
URN etd-10312008-085847
Title The Impacts of River Impoundment: A Case Study of H. Neely Henry Lake in Northeast Alabama
Degree Master of Science (M.S.)
Department Environmental Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John Pine Committee Chair
Margaret Reams Committee Member
Michael Wascom Committee Member
  • Alabama Power Company
  • Gadsden flooding
  • Gadsden
  • Coosa River
  • H. Neely Henry Dam
Date of Defense 2008-08-27
Availability unrestricted
Dam building is one of the methods that modern civilization uses in an attempt to harness the power of nature. These dams and the impoundments associated with them can contribute numerous positive impacts to the surrounding human population. Unfortunately, there are negative impacts as well. This research focuses on one impoundment in particular, H. Neely Henry Lake in northeast Alabama (an impoundment of the Coosa River). Site-specific information regarding the H. Neely Henry development is explored including area geography, history, and the formation of the Alabama Power Company – the agency responsible for H. Neely Henry and other Coosa River dams. The benefits of H. Neely Henry dam are then evaluated. These include the availability of hydroelectric power, reduced flooding, and abundant recreational opportunities. There was a significant impact on the human population associated with the region. Among other things, vast land loss occurred regarding the raising of the water level. Analysis was then conducted regarding the impoundment’s effects upon the local population and economy. It is difficult to determine any impact the formation of H. Neely Henry Lake had on local population and economy. Some positive environmental impacts of the impoundment include decreased flooding and increased habitat/food supply for some fish species. Some negative impacts include shoreline erosion, retention of upstream pollutants like PCB’s, and decline of organisms requiring a free-flowing river to survive (particularly migratory fish). A section analyzing related research is included which discusses the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) Waterway. The Tenn-Tom is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment system located in the same watershed. Also discussed in this section is the fight over water resources in the Coosa River between the states of Alabama and Georgia. The overall results of the thesis are discussed including an evaluation of the NEPA process as it could relate to the Coosa River projects and the H. Neely Henry development specifically. Conclusions and recommendations follow. Among other things, it is suggested that Coosa River projects may have had a difficult time gaining acceptance if they had been subject to modern environmental statutes such as the Clean Water Act and NEPA.
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