FRANKFORT, Ky. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the Wolf Creek Dam in Russell County is in need of repair to ensure the health and safety of Lake Cumberland and to prevent the possibility of flooding in the area should a breach occur.
To address this issue, the Corps of Engineers is lowering Lake Cumberland significantly, a move which will not only impact communities which rely on Lake Cumberland as a source of drinking water, but businesses, fisheries and recreation in the area as well.
Governor Ernie Fletcher has established a group to study the total impact.
“The Corps of Engineers’ announcement regarding the condition of Wolf Creek Dam raises a serious challenge. I have asked members of my administration who have expertise in the areas potentially affected to develop a plan to mitigate the negative impact as much as possible,” said Governor Fletcher. “For all those who live, work and visit the area, it is my hope that this project will be done as expeditiously as possible. Our primary concerns will be the safety of the citizens, the integrity of the Wolf Creek Dam, the protection of Lake Cumberland and the economic impact on local businesses.”
More than 4.7 million visitors spend 73.3 million hours at Lake Cumberland annually. It is the fourth most popular lake of its kind in the nation. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, the tourism economic impact for the four-county area (Clinton, Pulaski, Russell, Wayne) with access to Lake Cumberland is $152.6 million.
The Commerce Cabinet, which includes the Kentucky Department of Tourism and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, will work with the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) to determine what the Commonwealth can do to assist this region through this transition.
Commerce Secretary George Ward, EPPC Secretary Teresa Hill, and KYTC Secretary Bill Nighbert will discuss all options with officials at the local, state and federal level.
Secretary Hill and EPPC will continue to work with local community leaders to develop a plan to address impacts for their water intakes and to ensure water service is not interrupted.
“Working together, we will aggressively pursue every option to keep the lake economy strong,” said Governor Fletcher.
Tourism Commissioner Randy Fiveash will meet with local tourism officials, the Kentucky Marina Association, the Kentucky Tourism Council and the federally funded Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association to gather their input. Commissioner Fiveash will also explore tourism promotion options for the region.
Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Dr. Jon Gassett and his fisheries team will work with the Corps of Engineers on mitigating the impact of the lake’s water level. They will be looking at what boat ramps can be extended, what shoreline habitat improvements can be made, what alternatives need to made for trout production and stocking.
The Lake Cumberland area is home to the only cold water fish hatchery in Kentucky, producing approximately 1 million trout annually and stocking the entire state.
KYTC will address access to the lake for recreational boating and the houseboat manufacturing industry. EPPC has consulted with the Corps of Engineers on the appropriate repairs for the Wolf Creek Dam.
“My administration is taking immediate action to do everything it can to assist those living and working in the Lake Cumberland region,” said Governor Fletcher.