December 2013—this month – is a significant milestone in the history of Wolf Creek Dam.
Technically, end of this year is the close of Treviicos-Soletanche JV’s $594 million contract to repair the mile-long structure that impounds Lake Cumberland. It also may signal a light at the end of the tunnel for the longest continuous coverage of any news event in the history of this newspaper.
The eight years since the Corps announced Wolf Creek Dam was in high risk of failure seem an eternity. The revelation was made locally at The Center for Rural Development in mid-August 2005.
That’s been 100 months; about 3,000 days, and more than 4.3 million minutes ago! The economic heartbeat of Lake Cumberland Country during these trillions of unsettling seconds has often skipped a beat at a lake level lower than normal. A possible breach of the dam gave communities along the Cumberland River form Burkesville to Nashville a case of the jitters.
The best face possible was put on the situation, but an inaccurate perception of a “dry lake” perpetrated by intense media coverage shooed hundreds of Ohio Navy admirals to other watery destinations.
Initially, end of the rehabilitation was scheduled last December. However, a porous spot in the dam at the juncture of the concrete and earthen sections, dubbed Critical Area 1, delayed the project a full year. While drilling into the unstable area, instrumentation inside the dam showed material movement deep in the structure.
The shifting was so alarming communities below the dam were notified. It took several months to figure out how to insert the concrete wall in the critical spot without triggering a breach.
Rehabilitation of the leaky dam apparently is complete. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully.
During the second week of this month a panel of experts, called a Vertical Team, held a two-day final review of the rehabilitation project and took a field trip to the dam. Out of the meeting of upper management and technical personnel from inside and outside the Corps will come a recommendation to Brigadier General Margaret W. Burcham, commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of the Corps.