Lake Cumberland is rising rapidly due to rain and melting snow and there is a potential for flooded recreational areas if heavy rains forecast for this week materializes.
“If we get 3 inches of rain this week the potential is there for the lake to rise to 740 feet above sea level,” said Robert Dillingham, hydraulic engineer at the Nashville District. The lake early Wednesday morning was at 725.32 feet above sea level and rising two-tenths to three-tenths of a foot an hour. Some 23,780 cubic feet of water per second were being released through the dam’s generators.
A level of 725 feet is two feet above summer pool stage. A potential level of 740 feet would be 15 feet above summer pool.
Mike Looney, operations project manager for the lake, said a 740 level would raise the lake over the road at Waitsboro, inundate the boat-launch ramp at Fishing Creek Recreation Area, bring the water into the parking area at Lakeview Boat Ramp (behind Guthrie’s restaurant) and to the top of the boat ramp at General Burnside Island State Park. It would not get above the causeway leading to the state park, he said.
Mike McQueary, assistant to Vickie McQueary, director at Pulaski County Park, said Wednesday that part of the park’s camping area was already under water.
“Level 740 would take a big chunk of the camping area at the park ... there would be some camping spots still open but once the lake gets a foot above the boat ramp, that’s pretty level ground and the water will spread quickly.” Pulaski County Park will open April 1 for the 2015 vacation season.
The big problem will be clean-up. Debris is already collecting at Waitsboro and more will come as the water rises, Looney said.
One hopeful note is indications that much heavy rain associated with the low-pressure system is shifting slightly northward. This would take some of the water into the Ohio River drainage area and out of the Cumberland River basin.
A lake level of 740 feet would be considerably less than during May 1984 when the level reached 751.69, flooding most recreational areas and covering the causeway at General Burnside State Park.
Lake Cumberland general statistics:
• The normal summer pool is around 723 feet above mean sea level.
• The tree line is about 725 feet.
• The maximum pool is 760 feet (top of dam floodgates)
• The top of Wolf Creek Dam is 773 feet.
• Lake is considered at “flood control” level from 723-760 feet.
• Normal power drawdown is between 723 and 673 feet.
The power generating capacity is considered “dead” below 673 feet.
• At 760 feet elevation, the shoreline of Lake Cumberland is 1,255 miles.
• At maximum possible elevation of 760 feet, Lake Cumberland is considered to be 101 miles long, with a total surface acreage of 65,530 acres.
• Surface acreage at 723 feet is 50,250 acres.
• At minimum power pool of 673 feet, it is 35,820 surface acres.
• Average depth of lake at summer pool of 723 feet above sea level: 90 feet
• Deepest point in lake: Original river channel adjacent to Wolf Creek Dam: 200 feet
• Depth of river channel upstream of dam to Wolf Creek: Generally 160 feet
• Depth of river channel upstream of Wolf Creek to one mile upstream of Burnside: Generally 120 feet