Commonwealth Journal

News Live

March 26, 2014

Lake saga reaches a happy ending

Somerset —

The front page banner headline in the Commonwealth Journal  on Tuesday, January 23, 2007 cautioned:
Feds Take Emergency Measures
To Protect Wolf Creek Dam
Hot off the press, that day’s top story caused the economic heartbeat of Lake Cumberland Country to skip a beat. Officials from the Nashville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the day before had called the media to The Center for Rural Development in Somerset and announced Lake Cumberland was being lowered 43 feet to relieve pressure on Wolf Creek Dam. 
The dam that impounds the 101-mile-long lake had been declared in high risk of failure and a major rehabilitation of the mile-long structure was necessary, the Corps said. Built atop porous limestone rock, the dam has been plagued with leaks since the gates were closed and the lake impounded in December 1950. 
A near breach in the dam during the late 1960s was temporarily repaired, but uncontrolled seepage continued. In 2005, an independent group of engineers classified the mile-long structure in high risk of failure and the Corps carefully managed the water level from that point.
Move forward 86 months, some 2,617 days, and about 62,800 stressful  hours. That takes us to March 25, 2014. That’s this week; that’s Wednesday just past. A headline at the top of the Commonwealth Journal’s front page screams:
Lake Cumberland Gets OK
To Be Back At Normal Levels
A happy ending it is. Excitement reverberates from the Halls of Congress to the little bait store aside a lane leading to a favorite fishing spot on the lake. Tourism promoters yelled: “The lake is back.” 
Joyful sounds and celebrations don’t obliterate a long hard road. A lot of water has gone through the dam during the past 7 years. 
A 2 1/2-inch-long minnow on the federal Endangered Species List almost blocked the lake’s return to normal.  You can’t raise the lake and destroy habitat for the duskytail darter, environ-mentalists said.

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