Commonwealth Journal

Local News

July 19, 2007

Top Corps official visits Lake Cumberland

Stresses high priority of dam, local economy

An assistant secretary of the Army and a top official of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers toured Lake Cumberland Wednesday to emphasize the Corps’ commitment to repair Wolf Creek Dam and its awareness of the adverse economic impact because of low water levels.

John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Gen. Bruce Berwick, commander of the Great Lakes-Ohio River District of the Corps, viewed the lake from a state helicopter supplied by Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

“I’m the kind of guy who has a hard time understanding something I haven’t seen,” said Woodley. He said the helicopter tour was his first chance to view Lake Cumberland.

Woodley emphasized that rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam is “ ... one of the Corps’ very highest priorities.”

The 56-year-old dam has been classified by an outside panel of experts as being in high risk of failure. A $309 million, seven-year rehabilitation program is currently under way.

Berwick promised to speed up the repair timetable if possible.

“We would ask for (additional) money if we find we can expedite the project,” he observed. Congress up to now has given the Corps all the money it has requested. More than $30 million is in the current budget and $54.1 million is in the budget for fiscal year 2008.

“Whatever happens on the ground (at the dam) is not because they (Corps) don’t have the resources,” Wooley remarked.

“I’m really impressed with the efforts of the state, particularly to step up to the plate to ensure lake access and make sure the marinas can continue to serve,” Woodley continued.

He said he is amazed at the amount of water in Lake Cumberland, even at the current level, some 40 feet below normal. “This is the largest impounded body of water east of the Mississippi,” he reminded.

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