Commonwealth Journal

Local News

August 1, 2007

Better safe than sorry

Cities will continue water intake projects despite lake news

Somerset and Burnside are moving ahead with plans to modify water intakes despite an announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week that Lake Cumberland will not be lowered further next year.

However, a spokesman for Winchester-based East Kentucky Power Cooperative, owner-operator of John Sherman Cooper Power Station at Burnside, said it will reevaluate part of its plans.

The Corps has advised some 11 communities along the lake as well as the Burnside power plant, to lower water intakes to level 650 by the end of the year. Wolf Creek Dam is leaking and a seven-year $309 million rehabilitation of the mile-long structure is under way.

Lake Cumberland was lowered in January to level 680, about 43 feet below summer pool, to ease pressure on the dam. The structure has been classified by an outside panel of experts as a high risk for failure. The directive to lower water intakes another 30 feet by the end of the year generated fears that the lake level might also be lowered next year.

The Corps has warned repeatedly that repair of the dam is risky and subject to crises. Intense grouting has been under way since December and a contract to extend a concrete diaphragm through the earthen section of the dam and 100 feet into the bedrock below the dam will be let late this year or early next year.

Mayor Eddie Girdler said Tuesday that Somerset will continue a $1.85 million project to lower the city’s water intake at Waitsboro to the 610-foot level, 48 feet lower than it is now.

Burnside Mayor Chuck Fourman was out of town when this story was written. However, he told the Commonwealth Journal Friday that the city plans to proceed with an emergency project to lower its water intake. Burnside has its own water treatment and distribution system.

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