Worst Fears May Be Realized With Wolf Creek Dam

By: Phil Pendleton, Bureau Chief
By: Phil Pendleton, Bureau Chief

Lake Cumberland, KY (WVLT) - The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday they may have to lower Lake Cumberland an additional 30 feet before the end of the year because of the fears of structural failure at the Wolf Creek Dam.

State and local officials say that would put communities in the area without water and force rolling blackouts. Kentucky officials estimate as many as 200,000 homes and businesses including hospitals and nursing homes could be affected.

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher says something needs to be done. “This will be a real problem," Governor Fletcher says. "We need to figure out how to solve it soon."

The Corps does have some plans in the case the water level is lowered including extending water pipes.

WVLT Volunteer TV News and its sister station, WKYT, in Lexington, KY broke the news of fears of seepage at the Wolf Creek Dam in 2006. Months later, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged the dangers outlined in the initial reports.

Officials believe that if significant pressure is not taken off of the dam, a structural failure could occur. The latest news about having to lower the lake level an additional 30 feet, according to sources close to the story, is indicative of the gravity of the situation.

Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers released a "worst case scenario" should the Wolf Creek Dam were to break. That scenario includes the flooding of hundreds of square miles downstream of the dam, including the city of Nashville.

Late last week, the Corps of Engineers released flood inundation maps to select public libraries in Kentucky and Tennessee in locations along the Cumberland River basin. The public has been encouraged to review the maps to see if they or their property would be threatened by a dam collapse.

Also following the reports last year by WKYT-TV and WVLT-TV, state officials in Kentucky and Tennessee initiated meeting with local disaster and emergency officials in Cumberland River communities to prepare them in the event of a catastrophic dam collapse.

Bill Purcell, the Mayor of Nashville, said he had been briefed on what would happen to his city downstream of Wolf Creek Dam. At the time, Purcell said his city would look like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina should the dam burst.


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