In December 1941 President Roosevelt signed a bill ordering the construction of a dam after major floods had caused damage throughout the Elizabethton area. The dam was built at Carden Bluff and holds back the waters of Watauga River.
Nearly 12,000 acres of land was bought by the Tennessee Valley Authority who was in charge of building the dam. The townspeople of Butler were told that the main street of their town would be one hundred feet under water. Seven hundred and sixty-one families had to be relocated.
Watauga Dam was completed on December 1, 1948. At the time ofcompletion it was the highest rock and earth filled dam in the world. Watauga Dam is 328 feet high and 1000 feet long. It is 32 feet thick at the top and 1260 feet thick at the bottom. The total cost of the project was $32,335,243.
Although flood control was the primary purpose of Watauga Dam electrical power has also been important. The Watauga powerhouse is 2100 feet downstream from the bottom of the Watauga Dam. It contains an overhead crane, main transformers, generators and their turbines along with their equipment. The two generators rate 30,000 kWh each. A control building houses office space and control equipment for not only the Watauga powerhouse, but the South Holston and Wilbur Dams as well.
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