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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District poured concrete for the last pile of the barrier wall this week, which completes the last and most critical component of the dam safety project required to mitigate seepage through the karst geology deep in the foundation of Wolf Creek Dam’s embankment.
The dam is the major impoundment on Lake Cumberland in southeastern Kentucy.
It is the last of 1,197 piles that are approximately 3 feet in diameter and extend up to 275 feet into bedrock below the foundation of the embankment.
Altogether they interlock to form the barrier wall.
“This is a monumental occasion for both the local and downstream communities that rely on the dam for its economic and water management benefits,” said Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander. “The Corps has been working hard to increase efficiencies while reducing the time constructing the barrier wall. Today’s completion of the barrier wall enables us to begin the process of raising the Lake Cumberland pool level.”
After a successful review period, the district plans to raise Lake Cumberland pool in increments.
The initial increment will target an operating zone between elevations 700 and 705 feet or about 20 feet higher than the current range of elevation 680 and 685.
A ceremonial concrete placement and public completion ceremony is scheduled at the Wolf Creek Dam work platform 10 a.m. April 19.
The public is invited to celebrate the project’s completion with the Corps, its contractor Treviicos-Soletanche Joint Venture, and other local, state and national officials expected at this event.
More information will follow as the event approaches to include parking information and the agenda.
In 2007, cracks in the dam resulted in orders to drop lake levels severely to keep the the structure from failing. Many of the boaters moved their craft to Tennessee waters, at least temorarily.
Officials are making plans to raise the water level in Lake Cumberland to near normal this summer.
The Corps initially estimated it would take until December 2013 to finish the $594 million project, meaning the lake level wouldn’t return to normal until the summer of 2014.
Still, no final decision about raising the lake level will be made until after the agency and outside experts review whether the repairs have stabilized the dam, according to the Corps.
Many businesses and the state’s tourism economy depend upon the giant lake, which is a mecca for houseboats.