Friday, January 18, 2013

Corps will raise water level in largest reservoir in Eastern U.S. to test second massive dam repair

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes to increase water levels this summer in Lake Cumberland, the largest reservoir by volume in the Eastern U.S. at normal pool, Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Leaks at Wolf Creek Dam caused the Corps to significantly decrease water levels in 2007. Repair of the dam is the Corps' top construction project, costing $594 million. (Herald-Leader photo by Charles Bertram: Lake, dam and Cumberland River)

The Corps expects to finish repairs this spring ahead of schedule, which was originally set to finish in summer 2014. Local officials are hopeful that increased water levels this year will bring tourists back after six seasons of lower visitation. If the repairs pass review by third-party engineers, the lake will first be raised to about 20 feet below normal pool, allowing the agency to test the repairs. If the dam performs well at that level, the Corps will raise the lake to normal pool, 723 feet above mean sea level. For the Corps' news release, go here.

The Corps made an emergency decision to lower levels after engineers said Wolf Creek Dam was at high risk of failure. Estep notes the dam was built in the 1940s in terrain riddled with caves and underground fissures, through which water seeped under the mile-long earthen part of the dam. Another expensive repair job in the 1970s proved to be incomplete. (Read more)

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