Repairs Almost Complete on Massive Dam in Kentucky

January 14, 2013

Work to repair the massive Wolf Creek Dam in southern Kentucky is slated for completion later this year and the project manager says things are going “smoothly.”

Don Getty told the Commonwealth Journal that the project, which began in 2007, is about 85 percent complete.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deemed the project urgent because a failure of the nearly mile-long dam would flood communities along the Cumberland River all the way to Nashville, Tenn. Officials lowered the level of Lake Cumberland by 40 feet in 2007 to ease pressure on the structure.

Getty says he expects lake levels to rise in 2014, though how much depends on several factors – including the amount of rainfall.

He said the depth of the lake will be increased in increments after the barrier wall is complete. After each increment, officials will inspect the dam to make sure the structure is safe. The lake is considered to be full when it is 101 miles long and an average of 90 feet deep.

Getty said all primary holes have been drilled along the unstable portion of the dam, which lessens the risk of a setback.

“There are still risks,” Getty said. “But not as much.”

Wolf Creek Dam has been plagued with seepage since the gates closed and the lake began to fill in December 1950. A serious leak developed in 1968 and was controlled by intense grouting and installation of a barrier wall during the 1970s. Seepage continued, and in 2005, experts declared the dam a high risk for failure.

The $594 million project to stop the seepage includes inserting a deep underground wall along the dam’s 4,000-foot long earthen embankment and filling underground karst formations with cement.

Engineers have said Wolf Creek Dam will be permanently repaired when the current rehabilitation is finished.

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