President Bush’s budget for Fiscal Year 2007 contains $31 million for repairing Wolf Creek Dam, according to Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset. Congress has just received the President’s budget and the document has not received final approval.

Officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in mid-August last year that the giant earthen section of Wolf Creek Dam is leaking again and major rehabilitation is necessary. They expressed pleasure that President Bush included the money in the budget for next fiscal year, beginning in October.

“That’s what we asked for (in the new budget) and, thankfully, that’s what we got,” reacted Mike Zoccola, chief, Civil Design Branch, Corps of Engineers. He said the estimated $300 million needed to repair the ailing dam hopefully will be budgeted on a year-to-year basis over the projected seven years that it will take to fix the structure.

Rogers also expressed pleasure that the money to begin the repair project was in the 2007-2008 budget.

“I am very pleased to see funding in the president’s budget for Wolf Creek Dam,” Rogers said in a prepared statement. “Repairing the dam is a top priority for southern Kentucky and this funding is critical to protecting the public from the threat of flooding and ensuring that Lake Cumberland remains open for tourism and recreational opportunities,” Rogers said.

No contracts have been let at this point, but some preliminary work has begun on Halcomb Landing, the ramp and parking facility off U.S. 127 just upstream from the dam. The parking area will be elevated to accommodate heavy equipment needed to make the dam repairs. Corps officials say another parking area and ramp will be developed nearby for public use. All this work is ahead of a major dam rehabilitation contract scheduled to be let in January 2007.

Zoccola said recently that some drilling will be done on the upstream face of the dam to obtain data necessary for preparation of a contract proposal.

Two Corps engineers from St. Louis recently used new sonar technology to determine the condition of the bottom of the lake and the underwater slope of the dam. Zocolla said yesterday the engineers’ report on this study is not yet available.

The repair project at the dam calls for another concrete diaphragm. The job will embrace newer technology than during the 1970s when a concrete diaphragm was constructed to stop a major leak discovered in 1967.

Then, a muddy discoloration of water in the dam’s tailrace warned engineers that materials were being washed from beneath the structure. A sinkhole was discovered near the toe of the dam on March 13, 1968. The pit grew to 10 feet in diameter and eight feet deep during the next two days. Another sinkhole developed in late April of that year about 75 feet from the first sinkhole.

After a dozen years and $103 million spent, the original diaphragm wall was completed. Engineers thought at the time that the problem was solved.

Piezometers (pressure reading devices) were installed in the dam during the first repair project. High pressure readings on these instruments signaled the current problem. Also, engineers say there are wet spots that indicate water is seeping through the dam. They insist that the current leakage is not as serious as the problem discovered in the late 1960s.

Zoccola said the original diaphragm will remain in the dam. The new diaphragm wall will be much longer and deeper, extending roughly 100 feet into the bedrock beneath the dam and the entire length of the earthen section to tie into the natural ground at the north end of the dam. The original diaphragm went about 25 feet into the bedrock.

The engineer emphasized there are no problems with the concrete portion of the dam. He said seeping water sometimes visible on the tailrace side of the concrete “ probably leakage through a lift joint and is generally not a problem.”

The Corps announced earlier that the lake level will be kept low between December and March to take pressure off the ailing dam. However, Zocolla said the current low lake level is normal, something that occurs every winter. The lake level has risen since recent heavy rains.

Wolf Creek Dam, now 54 years old, impounds 101-mile-long Lake Cumberland. The dam is 158 feet high and 5,738 feet long. The earthen section is 3,940 feet and the remainder is concrete. The lake covers 63,000 acres and has 1,255 miles of shoreline when at summer pool stage

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