An 800-yard no-wake zone is being established around John Sherman Cooper Power Station to keep its powerful water-intake pumps from sucking air and disrupting the cooling process.

Officials of East Kentucky Power Cooperative are concerned that wakes from pleasure boats might expose the pumps that push 250,000 gallons of water a minute to cool the coal-fired generating units. The intake system is only about five feet below the surface now that the lake is being kept low to ease pressure on an unstable Wolf Creek Dam.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative, owner and operator of the Burnside electric generating plant, has requested and received permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to establish an enforceable no-wake zone around the water-intake system on the North Fork of the Cumberland River.

Kevin Osbourn, spokesman for East Kentucky Power Cooperative, said this week that lighted buoys have been ordered and should be in place within the next few weeks. Enforcement of the no-wake zone will begin shortly thereafter.

Osbourn said the cooperative is also working on plans to keep John Sherman Cooper Power Station in operation in case the rehabilitation process at Wolf Creek Dam forces the lake to be lowered further.

Corps officials have advised municipalities and other water-users from the lake to be prepared for levels as low as 650 feet above seal level, some 30 feet lower than the current level, by December 31. They emphasized that this does not mean the lake will be lower next year; only be ready in case it is necessary. Wolf Creek Dam has been classified as a “high risk” for failure and a five-to-seven year, $309 million rehabilitation is under way.

Several options are under consideration to assure a plentiful supply of cooling water at John Sherman Cooper Power Station. The options, according to Osbourn, are barge-mounted pumps, cofferdam around the water-intake system, cooling tower, or a new deep-water intake system.

Osbourn said engineers are expected to make a recommendation on the most viable option to the cooperative’s board of directors in April.

John Sherman Cooper Power Station is described as a vital link in the cooperative’s electric generating system. Predictions are that if the Burnside plant were to be shut down by a low water level, the region could be affected by rolling blackouts.

John Sherman Cooper Power Station has two generating units that produce 341 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply power to homes in 31 cities the size of Somerset. The plant burns 900,000 tons of coal a year and employs 73 people.

Osbourn expressed confidence that John Sherman Cooper Power Plant will remain operative, even at a lower lake level.

“We will be ready ... we will have a plan in place (in case the water level goes lower),” he assured.

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