Governor's Office for Local Development

Press Release Date:  Friday, April 13, 2007  
Contact Information:  Lanny Brannock
Andi Johnson
Public Information Officer

Governor Ernie Fletcher today signed an executive order establishing a funding framework to address immediate public safety concerns and other harmful effects caused by the lowering of Lake Cumberland and safety concerns with Wolf Creek Dam.


The United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has described the dam as “one of the highest risk dams in the Corps’ inventory.” In January 2007, the Corps decided to lower Lake Cumberland to 680 feet above sea level to make structural repairs to Wolf Creek Dam.


“This order is about preparedness, not panic,” said Governor Fletcher. “We must make sure Kentuckians in these counties are safe, and have reliable, clean drinking water and utility services. We are working to minimize the impact the lowering of the lake has on residents in the affected areas and prepare for any possible problem involving the dam.”


Two letters from the Corps dated February 9 and March 23 of this year have instructed local officials in the affected area to be ready for the possibility of the lake being lowered to 650 feet above sea level by December of 2007.


These steps have been taken in part to allow several utilities to start work that will allow them to continue to draw water from Lake Cumberland if the Corps decides to lower the lake below the 680-foot level.


Albany Mayor Nicky Smith knows too well the problems the 10,000 citizens in his community are facing. “If the lake drops any more, our water intake would be sucking mud,” Smith said. “We aren’t as worried about the lake being lowered 30 feet by the end of the year. We won’t be able to treat water if the lake drops another five feet. We need to move our intakes now.”


At least three municipalities that draw raw water from Lake Cumberland may not be able to provide safe drinking water if the lake level dropped to only 675 feet. Drought conditions alone could cause the lake to fall to that level.


Counties impacted are: Caldwell, Christian, Clinton, Cumberland, Logan, Lyon, McCreary, Monroe, Pulaski, Russell, Simpson, Todd, Trigg and Wayne.


“Repeated calls for emergency funding and a unanimous, bi-partisan 37-0 vote in the State Senate to appropriate $25 million for emergency needs in the Lake Cumberland area were ignored by the House of Representatives,” said Governor Fletcher. “Because of the failure of the House to act, we must take this action now.


“Governor Fletcher appropriately recognized the Wolf Creek Dam structural issues as a true natural disaster,” said Senate President David L. Williams (R-Burkesville). “His attention to this crisis is appreciated.”


“Our first priority is the safety and well being of the communities of Wolf Creek Dam,” said Sen. Vernie McGaha (R-Russell Springs). “Governor Fletcher's actions today show his Administration's dedication to this goal.”


“The safety of the Trigg communities potentially affected by any crisis with Wolf Creek Dam is paramount,” said Sen. Ken Winters (R-Murray). “The Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency to help the flow of state dollars is a necessary and appropriate step.”


Affected communities can apply to the Governor’s Office for Local Development for financial assistance. Governor Fletcher has authorized up to $25 million in emergency funding and has directed all agencies of state government with potential existing programs that could aid the affected communities to provide assistance to the Governor’s Office of Local Development in the evaluation of community needs.


In a separate action, Governor Fletcher has also directed the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to evaluate and provide appropriate assistance for the needs of the affected communities in providing access to Lake Cumberland resulting from the lowering of the lake. Ramp extension work has already been authorized at Lake Cumberland State Park and General Burnside State Park.


Authority for Executive Order


The authority to appropriate unbudgeted funds was granted by the General Assembly within the 2006-2008 budget act, House Bill 380, enacted by the 2006 General Assembly. It provides: “There is appropriated from the General Fund the necessary funds to be expended, subject to the conditions and procedures provided in this Act, which are required as a result of the Governor’s call of the Kentucky National Guard to active duty when an emergency or exigent situation has been declared to exist by the Governor.  These necessary funds shall be made available from the General Fund Surplus Account (KRS 48.700) or the Budget Reserve Trust Fund Account (KRS 48.705).”


KRS Chapter 39A allows the Governor to declare an emergency and exercise emergency powers for the protection of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Specifically included within the definition of emergency is any situation which poses a major threat to public safety so as to cause harm to public health or the environment. The law’s stated intent also includes references to responses to the threats to public safety and the harmful effects of dam failure, major utility system failure or other infrastructure failures. KRS Chapter 39A also provides that the Governor may authorize use of funds during a threatened or impending emergency.


A copy of the executive order is attached.




Comments from County Judge-Executives in the impacted counties:


“I greatly appreciate the actions of Governor Fletcher with regards to the impact of the Wolf Creek Dam project. I know it’s a struggle to find the funds to assist local communities. Thanks to Governor Fletcher the state is already implementing reverse 9-1-1 and enhanced 9-1-1 in our area and the systems that would normally take two years to implement will be online by August.” – Judge Mickey Garner, Russell County


“I appreciate the executive order signed by Governor Fletcher that identifies what will be emergency needs. Our water district has been looking at the potential impacts if there will be flooding.” – Judge Arthur W. Green, Todd County


“It’s a very big thing for us since some of the water wells in the eastern end of Wayne County have gone dry. We appreciate very much what Governor Fletcher has done. It’s very important to us that all of our people have water.” – Judge Greg Rankin, Wayne County


“We certainly appreciate all that’s being done for us in Monroe County. Reverse 9-1-1 – that was great. Also the weather radios.” – Judge Wilbur Graves, Monroe County


 “I appreciate any efforts by Governor Fletcher in this situation because it’s a critical matter for all the affected counties. McCreary County is greatly appreciative of Governor Fletcher’s initiative, and it will greatly assist McCreary County – Judge Blaine Phillips, McCreary County


“I certainly concur with Governor Fletcher’s decision to issue an executive order. It is necessary to have the order in place so we will have the opportunity to be prepared in the event of an emergency.” – Judge Stanley H. Humphries, Trigg County:


“We are appreciative and thankful to the Governor for his efforts in stepping up to make sure that Clinton County has the resources we need. Whether it is ensuring that our county has a clean, stable supply of drinking water, or important public safety projects, the Governor and his staff have been a great assistance to us.” – Judge Lyle K. Huff, Clinton County.


“Governor Fletcher has responded promptly and appropriately since January to address the Wolf Creek Dam situation and the challenges we face here in Cumberland County. The reverse 9-1-1 system, enhanced 9-1-1 and emergency alert weather radios have provided us with an essential emergency notification system we need. I am confident that these efforts, in addition to others still to come, will greatly improve public safety in this community. On behalf of the Cumberland County government and the people we serve, I want to thank the Governor for understanding the concerns and anxiety of the people here in Cumberland River region.” – Judge Tim Hicks, Cumberland County


“We’re excited about this emergency order because it means help is on the way. Governor Fletcher has always been very receptive to us and our situation on the lake. The Governor’s Office and GOLD and Transportation and the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet have always responded to Pulaski County and the special needs we have because of the lake situation. The signing of this executive order is just an extension of the great work Governor Fletcher has done for the people of the lake and his concern for us.”  Judge Barty Bullock, Pulaski County


“A sudden elevation of the Cumberland River could damage the regional water system that serves Logan and Todd counties. The executive order is a progressive step in case an emergency happens. We’d certainly like to support his efforts in signing this.” – Judge Logan Chick, Logan County


“It’s good that Governor Fletcher is taking a precautionary approach to dealing with these issues. I’m glad to know we’re looking ahead.” – Judge Steve Tribble, Christian County


“We’re appreciative of the Governor for addressing this important problem for all of the communities impacted by Lake Cumberland. While our county is not directly affected by the lowering of the Lake, it’s important to take these preparedness steps in advance.”  – Judge Van Knight, Caldwell County


“I am very appreciative of Governor Fletcher’s willingness to take the initiative to be prudent when planning for the welfare of Kentucky's citizens.” – Judge Jimmy Campbell, Lyon County


“I am certainly supportive of the Governor’s initiative to be proactive about this. Obviously the Governor and his administration have been looking at this issue to see that, at some point, there is likely to be the need for some emergency response.” – Judge Jim Henderson, Simpson County