Commonwealth Journal

Local News

December 12, 2007

Grouting will determine decision on lake level

February is target date for initiation of assessment

No decision has been made on raising the level of Lake Cumberland next year and none is expected until the upstream grout line in the earthen section of Wolf Creek Dam is in place.

Steve Foshee, public affairs officer for the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District, said Wednesday the grouting is projected to be completed February 21. After that, he said, the Corps will start going through a process already in place to determine the lake level. Foshee said this information was confirmed by David Hendrix, manager of the Wolf Creek project.

An announcement from Congressman Hal Rogers’ office late last summer indicated the lake level would be raised 10 feet during the 2008 tourist season. However, Corps officials quickly muted celebrations by tourist-related businesses by saying no decision had been made on the lake level next year.

The lake was lowered 43 feet last January to ease pressure on Wolf Creek Dam, classified in high risk of failure by a panel of outside engineers. The action followed a revelation in August 2005 that Wolf Creek Dam is plagued by uncontrolled seepage and immediate action was necessary.

The lower lake level caused angst in an economy based on tourism. Boat launching ramps were extended to reach the water but expanded banks enhanced a perception that Lake Cumberland was no longer a vacation wonderland.

However, at pool stage, Lake Cumberland averages 90 feet deep, and an intensive publicity effort was launched to point out that there are still 35,000 acres of water in Lake Cumberland.

Advanced Construction Techniques, a Canadian firm, accelerated a grouting program begun in January and seepage through the earthen section of the dam reportedly has been reduced. Grouting is pumping liquid concrete to fill cavities in the limestone karst below the dam.

Foshee said the Corps has a process to determine a safe level of the lake during rehabilitation of the dam. He quoted Hendrix as saying this process would be followed.

A contract is expected to be awarded in May to insert a second concrete diaphragm through the earthen section of the dam extending to 100 feet in bedrock below the dam. It is part of a $309 million rehabilitation of the 56-year-old dam that is expected to take up to seven years.

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