Feb. 7 Newsletter on Lake Cumberland/Wolf Creek Dam
Friends of Lake Cumberland –
Under Governor Ernie Fletcher’s direction, top state officials are formulating plans for extending boat ramps at Lake Cumberland to ensure access to the lake for the 2007 boating season. State officials are looking at both long term and short term solutions while continuing to assess a variety of unknowns.
Ramps at General Burnside Island State Park and Lake Cumberland State Resort Park currently do NOT allow for boater access, due to reduced lake levels. Engineers from the Department of Parks have been working with the Transportation Cabinet to formulate plans to ensure the ramps are fully extend into the Lake.
The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is also assessing their six ramps. At least three should be suitable for extensions. They are the ramps at Lily Creek, Ono (in the Caney Creek embayment) and Slate Branch in Fishing Creek. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife staff have surveyed the three sites and are in the process of developing cost estimates for extension of the ramps.
The Army Corps of Engineers is completing their surveys of the rest of the ramps on the lake. State officials will provide assistance in determining which ramps can be extended and assist in identifying appropriate funding sources.
Shortly after the lake level settles at 680’, and after a visual inspection, a final plan will be completed. Factors such as construction time and the Army Corp of Engineers permitting process will determine which ramps will be open and how long it will take to have the extensions completed.
THE CORPS ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS!
The Army Corps of Engineers has answers to questions raised by Lake Cumberland area residents at the public meeting held with the Commerce Cabinet in January appear at the end of this newsletter.
Quotes from the man who is ultimately responsible for the Lake Cumberland/Wolf Creek Dam repair project (the man who oversees the Nashville office of the Army Corps of Engineers):
"The dam is certainly safer than it was yesterday. And every single day, I expect to be able to make that statement," Lt. Col. Steve Roemhildt with the Army Corps of Engineers said.
“I would feel safe. I would personally take my family and camp at Kendall campground.”
(Commonwealth Journal 1/31/07)
Steven J. Roemhildt, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District, was responding to a reporter’s question about how confident he is that Wolf Creek Dam is not in imminent danger of catastrophic failure. Kendall Recreation Area is a popular camping and picnic spot immediately below the Wolf Creek Dam structure.
From a recent AP article regarding Lake Cumberland:
Some marina operators are hoping for the best. One of the biggest marinas, Lee's Ford Resort, has 900 boat slips and had to move some docks.
"I think when folks get over the thought that there's not going to be any water and they see there's plenty of water, all those fears will go away," said Jeff Cress, marina manager.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them back to me at this address: email@example.com and we will try and get you an answer.
If interested in learning about the KY Tourism Development Loan Program – contact Todd at 502-564-8067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past newsletters are available at www.commerce.ky.gov. Click on the “News” icon on the left side or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Army Corps of Engineers Lake Cumberland/Wolf Creek Dam web page. http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/issues/WOLcommo/
If you want to monitor the level here is the website: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/hh/resplots/wol_a.html
The Corps’ Manager's office home page:
On the Net: Corps Nashville District:
Corps of Engineers Public Meeting Schedule
_ Monday, Feb. 12, 6:30 p to 8:00 pm, Hendersonville First Baptist Church
_ Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m., Gallatin City Hall, 132 W. Main St., Gallatin. ___
RECENT NEWS ARTICLES
CORPS ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM COMMERCE CABINET’S PUBLIC MEETING IN JANUARY WITH LAKE CUMBERLAND AREA RESIDENTS
QUESTIONS FROM SOMERSET MEETING FOR CORPS
Q1. Why didn’t the corps give us any advance notice that this will happen?
A1. We understand the challenges associated with responding to these measures we have put in place and tried to provide as much notification as possible. On 6 November 2006, we held a stakeholders meeting at the Corps office in Somerset. Invitees included local officials, utilities, state and federal agencies, marina operators, and congressional offices. We informed those in attendance that many options were being considered for reducing risk, including major structural modifications and pool operating restrictions. Although specifics were not known at the time, attendees were told that lower pool levels were likely. Once the final decision was made to go to 680 on 18 January 2007, stakeholders were notified within a day of that decision.
Q2. What about our drinking water?
A2. Based on information provided by the utilities, all drinking water intakes are functional at elevation 680.
Q3. Can they extend our ramps immediately?
A3. During the week of 22 January the Corps began surveying depths at launching ramps to help prioritize work and determining the scope of work and cost estimates for ramp extensions that are currently with the Corps authority. It is our intent to complete extensions before the start of the recreation season.
Q4. Please provide a list of ramps that can still be used at 680.
A4. We believe the following seven ramps will be usable at 680:
Conley Bottom Marina
Lee’s Ford Marina
Grider Hill Marina
Please note this differs slightly from the list released the week of 22 January. As water levels drop, we may find conditions that change this list, such as broken ramps, dropoffs, etc.
Q5. What happens when heavy rains come in the spring?
A5. In the event of heavy rainfall in the Cumberland Basin, we will operate Wolf Creek Dam consistent with normal flood control operations. After the flood crest has passed the downstream control points we will aggressively bring Lake Cumberland back to the target elevation as soon as possible. This may involve a combination of hydropower and sluice gate releases, but we will conduct operations in a manner not to compromise downstream operations.
Q6. Why is the corps letting all of the negative stories come out?
A6. Quite obviously we can not control the media. We provide factual information via our web site, press releases and interviews. It is our intent to effectively communicate with the public in order to provide up to date, relevant information as to the safety of the dam.
Q7. Can we get a real schedule or time frame of events?
A7. We have begun implementing our acquisition strategy for the first boat ramp extensions and expect to have contracts in place by mid-February. We expect to complete all of the mitigation measures for which we have authority and funding by 31 May.
Q8. How long till it goes to 680? We are hearing it may take long and therefore longer to address the ramp and marina extension issue.
A8. We expect to reach 680 by 12 February using our current operating plan. If the basin receives significant rainfall, the target date will be extended.
Q9. Is the corps waiting to sell the power before they lower the level?
A9. No. At current lake levels, only two means are available to release water: 1) through the turbines and, thus, generating power and 2) through the sluice gates in the spillway section. We will work with the Southeastern Power Administration to maximize power production during this extended period of low lake levels, but if lake levels rise much above 680, we will use both means of discharge to lower the lake as rapidly as possible.
Q10. Burnside Island is where most houseboats access the lake. If this ramp is not kept open, they are not sure what to do.
A10. Unfortunately, we do not currently have the authority to assist at the state park ramp. We are planning on doing work at the marina ramp, but if there is pressing need to work on the state park ramp at this time, that will have to be done by others.
Q11. Can permitting be expedited?
A11. We are exploring alternatives that would provide for a short timeframe for permits for lengthening launching ramps. This involves state water quality certification as well as Section 10 and 404 compliance from the Corps.
Q12. How much notice will local communities have if the water level is to go below 680, in order for them to compensate for drinking water supply levels?
A12. We do not intend to lower the lake below elevation 680 unless conditions at the dam warrant. We have prepared a draft letter to send to the water utilities asking them to make plans to operate at elevation 650 should that decision be made in the future.
Q13. Can you give the citizens a realistic time table for raising the lake levels? Many will make financial decisions differently based on 1 or 3 or 5 year durations.
A13. Unfortunately not, as the decision is based on conditions at the dam and the determination that it is safe to raise the levels. When there is significant evidence from our instrumentation and visual observations the remedial measures are working and seepage is reduced to a point where risk of a dam failure is reduced to an acceptable level. We will continually monitor the seepage for indicators that the remedial measures are reducing risk. There is no guarantee, however, that pool levels will be allowed to increase until the work is totally completed (7 years) if the element of risk remains at a high level.
Q14. What is the specific plan for ramp extensions?
A14. The first ramps to be extended will be in Corps-operated areas and at some marinas. This totals 11 ramps. The Corps does not presently have legal authority to improve ramps in areas operated by the counties or state.
Q15. Is there money available to do ramp extensions?
A15. The Corps leadership is committed to extending launching ramps at Lake Cumberland as quickly as possible. Funding will not slow down the process. We fully expect to receive funds and complete the extension of ramps within our authority by the start of recreation season.
Q16. Can ramps be WIDENED or just extended?
A16. Where ramps narrow to one lane at lower elevations, we will widen them as appropriate as well. We have not completed the determination about widening entire ramps from top to bottom.
Q17. Is any dredging planned? If so, when?
A17. Presently, the Corps does not have authority to dredge to provide access for recreational traffic. Because of the lake’s depth, there are few areas where dredging would truly be beneficial.
Q18. Are there any “clean-up” plans? Can PRIDE get involved? We can use inmate labor. Can we use their clean-up barge?
A18. There are not presently any plans for special clean up efforts, but the lower lake levels will provide an outstanding opportunity for such volunteer activities. We hope to explore these opportunities in depth in the near future.
Q19. When will they hold meetings to talk directly to the people of Kentucky?
A19. The District will soon publish the time and location for a series of public meetings in nearby communities explaining the emergency measures, mitigation efforts, and dam safety. Additionally, the District will initiate alternative procedures to process an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Public and agency input will be solicited as part of these forums.
Q20. Locals say they were told they would have input on the plan and feel like they did not. Will they have input in the future?
A20. We have set in motion our funding and contracting mechanisms in order to initiate measures for which we currently have legal authority as quickly as possible. We plan to meet in mid-February with representatives of the local communities including elected officials, business owners, chambers of commerce, marina associations and other stakeholders. The purpose of the meetings will be to gather input to help determine additional public needs and to prioritize construction of the remedial measures. The public will also have an opportunity to provide input to the EIS.
Q21. The dam is 60 years old. Does it make more sense to repair it or build a new one?
A21. The study process we went through requires us to look at all technically feasible alternatives. An economic analysis is performed to select the best alternative based on the benefits it provides versus the cost i.e. the Benefit-Cost Ratio. The proposed cutoff wall gave the greatest benefit-to-cost ratio. However, early in the process we looked at replacing the dam and the costs were extremely high. The dam replacement costs were estimated using the price level adjusted cost of the original construction. The original 1940’s construction cost for the dam portion that includes costs for both the embankment and concrete portion of the dam was $28.7 million. This cost was escalated to today’s dollars resulting in a construction cost of $494 million. However, this cost did not include significant costs such as:
* Extensive foundation treatment and repairs needed for a new dam
* Replacing the powerhouse, switchyard, generation equipment, and related transmission facilities
* Replacing the USF&W fish hatchery
In addition, the time necessary to complete design and construction of a new dam would require much longer thereby necessitating at least a “short term” fix and causing a much longer period of lost project benefits. As a result, construction of a new dam was eliminated early in our study process.
Q22. Where will the no wake zones be in the lake?
A22. We have not yet determined where “no wake” zones will be expanded or established.
Q23. Will they provide/create new swimming areas? Apparently the existing ones won’t be available during repair work on the dam.
A23. Unfortunately, we will have to close the only designated swim area on the lake, at Fishing Creek, due to the low water levels. There are no plans to construct new swim beaches on the lake.