by Bill Mardis
“We’re very pleased. It went as expected. There were no unexpected surprises.”
That about sums up what Don B. Getty, manager of the Wolf Creek Dam Rehabilitation Project, would say to a Commonwealth Journal reporter about the just-completed two-day final safety review of Wolf Creek Dam.
Getty talked with the reporter about midday Thursday by cell phone while standing on the work platform on the upstream side of the dam. He was among several experts, both within and outside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who were on a field trip at the dam site following the safety review sessions earlier this week in Nashville.
“It (final safety review) was a very productive. We are very satisfied,” Getty assessed. He said the experts are also very satisfied with the way the dam has performed after the lake was allowed to rise 20 feet. Level of Lake Cumberland was lowered about 40 feet in January 2007 and was kept as near as possible at this level for safety and to facilitate repair work. It was announced in late January this year that the lake would be allowed to rise 20 feet during last summer’s vacation season. The lake during the summer ranged from 700 to 705 feet above sea level.
The panel of experts, called a Vertical Team, will make a recommendation to Brigadier General Margaret W. Burcham, commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of the Corps. Burcham, hopefully, will give the go-ahead for Lake Cumberland to return to normal operation next year.
“I want to warn you this is a long process,” said Getty. “This (final safety review) was a big hurdle but there are other processes.” Recommendations to the division commander will be based on technical, environmental and water management issues among other considerations, he said.
Getty said earlier it might be two months before Burcham makes a decision. However, he indicated a decision by the middle of February would be sufficiently early for normal operation this coming summer if, in fact, Burcham gives the go-ahead and Mother Nature cooperates with plenty of rainfall.
The seven-year, $594 million rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam was unprecedented in the world. Treviicos-Soletanche JV, a French-Italian conglomerate, was selected as general contractor to insert a concrete barrier wall, 4,000 feet long, 275 feet deep and at least 2 feet thick, through the earthen section of the dam. The wall is designed to stop uncontrolled seepage that caused the mile-long structure to be declared in high risk of failure.
The wall was finished in March but mop-up work continues at the dam. The general contractor is about half done with extending a cutoff wall to protect the electrical switchyard below the dam, the work platform on the lake side of the dam is being reduced to a permanent 30 feet in width, and the sharp turn at the intersection of U.S. 127 and the road leading to Kendall Recreation Area and the National Fish Hatchery will being modified to make it easier for vehicles to turn from 127 onto the road that goes below the dam.