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Corps: Lake Cumberland water level could start going up by 2008

Corps: Lake Cumberland water level could start going up by 2008
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that it will consider raising the water level of a massive southern Kentucky reservoir next year because of improvements on a leaking dam.
Lake Cumberland’s shoreline, down more than 40 feet from its typical height during the tourism season, could go up by as much as ten feet next year as Wolf Creek Dam is further stabilized, the Corps said in a statement.
“Conditions at the project are improving, wet spots are subsiding and the dam is becoming safer every day as we work on it,” said Lt. Col. Bernard Lindstrom, commander of the Corps’ Nashville District, which oversees the dam in south-central Kentucky.
Corps officials had said when the $300 million repair project was announced in January that the water level — crucial to the lake’s businesses and millions of summer visitors — could be lowered even further and remain down for years. But a failure of the dam would flood communities along the Cumberland River all the way to Nashville, Tenn., officials said.
Porous earth underneath the dam is being plugged with a grouting concrete, and wet spots where seepage occurred downstream from the dam are drying up, the statement said. Contractors have pumped nearly 155,000 gallons of the runny concrete into the dam’s foundation since January.
The grouting process will be finished early next year and the Corps will determine then if the water level can go up by a range of five to ten feet, the Corps said. The water line was dropped to ease pressure on the dam, which has undergone repairs three times since the 1960s.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, whose district includes some counties surrounding Lake Cumberland, said the Corps informed him that levels could rise in time for next summer’s busy season. Gov. Ernie Fletcher and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield also said they were pleased with the Corps’ announcement.
Business owners said a higher shoreline would provide welcome relief as many were forced to cope with shallow waters and less room for recreational boaters over the summer.
“It looks like things are looking up,” James Flatt, general manager at Alligator II marina in Russell Springs, said Monday. Flatt said the marina’s revenues were down about 30 percent from the year before for the busy season, but the business had a strong Labor Day weekend.
“Word of mouth is getting around that everything is OK,” he said. “I think business will pick up. I think that next year will be a little better.”
Bill Peoples, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers in Nashville, said officials are working on a report that will include the economic impact that lake businesses felt this past season. The Corps estimated earlier this year that those businesses would lose around $23.6 million in direct sales during the peak season.
Flatt said an additional ten feet of water would keep his marina from having to dry dock some boats. He said a rise would “save the life” of a neighboring marina stuck in about five feet of water.
Wolf Creek Dam underwent its first major repair project in 1968 after engineers detected signs of distress and found two sinkholes. Workers used grout to fill in underground channels and inserted a long underground wall along the dam’s earth embankment.
Since then, new seepage has found its way under, around and even through defects in the old wall, Corps officials said. As part of the rehab project, the Corps is planning to install a new wall that will be 1,650 feet wider and run 75 feet deeper than the old one at some points.
Published in The Messenger on 10.04.07

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