Commonwealth Journal

Local News

January 31, 2007

Corps commander: Wolf Creek Dam not in imminent danger of failure

“I would feel safe. I would personally take my family and camp at Kendall campground.”

Steven J. Roemhildt, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District, was responding to a reporter’s question about how confident he is that Wolf Creek Dam is not in imminent danger of catastrophic failure. Kendall Recreation Area is a popular camping and picnic spot immediately below the Wolf Creek Dam structure. The tailrace is also a popular trout fishing stream.

“I have employees living along the banks of the Cumberland River,” Roemhildt added, indicating he does not fear for their safety.

Speaking to a group of local reporters yesterday afternoon, Roemhildt said the current condition of Wolf Creek Dam “ ... is no worse or no better than it was last year or two years ago.” Roemhildt was accompanied to Somerset by Bill Peoples, chief of public affairs for the Corps. They met earlier in the day with city and county officials.

The Corps announced in August 2005 that the giant earthen and concrete structure that impounds 101-mile-long Lake Cumberland is leaking again and a $309 million, seven-year rehabilitation of the dam is necessary. The dam has been classified as a “high risk” for failure.

A week ago yesterday, the Corps revealed that the lake level will be lowered to 680 feet above sea level (43 feet below the tree line) at least for the remainder of this year to ease pressure on the ailing dam.

Roemhildt said yesterday that an accelerated grouting program is under way in an attempt to stop seepage through and beneath the earthen section of the dam and below the concrete portion of the structure. He said platforms are being constructed yesterday and today to support drilling equipment to force the liquid concrete into the dam.

A $51 million contract has been let to a Canadian firm to do the grouting. The dam will be re-evaluated this fall to determine the success of the project.

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