By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus Commonwealth Journal
Almost a week of heavy rainfall during the Independence Day holiday period is pushing the level of Lake Cumberland higher than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants it to be this summer.
Tom Hale, operations manager for the reservoir, said the lake will reach 714 feet above sea level Thursday. This will be about nine feet below the tree line and nine feet above the 705-foot target level for this summer.
“It won’t get any higher than 714 feet,” said Hale. “It will take about a week to get it back to the 705 level.”
At 6 a.m. Tuesday, the lake level was 712.96 and slowly rising. Some 23,600 cubic feet of water per second were being released through Wolf Creek Dam to lower the lake.
There are no problems at the dam. A seven-year rehabilitation of the mile-long structure was completed in March and the lake level was allowed to rise 20 feet for this summer’s vacation season.
Mike Zoccola, chief of the Civil Design Branch for the Corps’ Nashville District, said the permanent concrete barrier wall inserted in the earthen section of the dam must be treated as a new dam, according to Corps policy. In other words, the lake is being allowed to rise in increments, 20 feet this summer and another 20 feet to pool stage by next summer.
The rainfall that doused holiday activities last week was not as heavy in the Cumberland River Basin as it was in western parts of the state. However, Chuck Greif, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Jackson, said the Cumberland River went above flood stage about midnight Sunday and dropped below flood stage Tuesday morning. Wolf Creek Dam impounds Cumberland River.
The prodigious amounts of rainfall, especially for July, created “tides” along small creeks that washed a lot of debris into the lake. An unofficial rain gauge between Somerset and Burnside collected 5 inches of water last week.
At noon Tuesday Lake Cumberland in the Somerset-Burnside area was slightly murky but generally clear. Pride of the Cumberland trash collecting boat was at Waitsboro cleaning up debris that had collected along the shoreline.