A permanent concrete barrier wall, 4,000 feet long, 275 feet deep and at least 2 feet thick, has been inserted into the earthen section of the dam to stop uncontrolled seepage. The barrier wall was completed in March.
Other mop-up work at the dam site includes narrowing the work platform, created to accommodate heavy equipment, from 75 feet wide to a permanent passages 30 feet wide, and redesigning the intersection with U.S. 127 and the road leading below the dam. An effort has been made this fall and winter to keep the lake at 690 feet above sea level to facilitate the work platform modification.
Lake Cumberland is the economic engine that keeps Pulaski and surrounding counties humming. The largest and deepest lake east of the Mississippi River generated a tourist industry that immediately banished gloom and doom after closing of Southern Railways’ Ferguson Shops, ending employment for 600 well-paid workers.
Lake Cumberland is, has been and always will be a magnet. Sixty-three years ago—late December 1950—the gates were closed at Wolf Creek Dam to impound the 101-mile-long body of water. But, as always, the lake, averaging 90 feet deep, has a history of surprises.
“It was supposed to take two years lake to fill,” recalls former Burnside Mayor James W. “Jim” Brooks.
“But we had a flood ... and the bridges weren’t done,” said Brooks. A ferry was put in operation to take people to Ky. 90 and he recalls cars lined up and waiting more than two hours to be ferried across the lake.
“It was scary ... the water got choppy. “The ferry carried school buses ... the children would scream,” Brooks recalls.
Back to the future, if Commander Burcham gives the go-ahead for Lake Cumberland to return to normal operation, the screams you’ll hear will be excited sounds from a tourist industry that has suffered so long.
The happiest note: “Come on in. The water is fine!”