In June 18 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
Two years ago, when the water level was first lowered to the 680 foot above sea level mark changes had to me made to the fishing regulations on the Cumberland River.
There is some fear that a similar move could be needed this year.
It happened previously because the water in the river below the dam was not as cold as it traditionally has been, and that puts stress on the cold-water trout that makes up most of the river fishery.
"The water (temperature) we're getting now is the water we were getting in mid July last year," said James Gray, director of the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery which lies right below the dam.
The lower level of water behind the dam has meant that overall there is less cold water behind the dam than usual.
Because of that pumps had been put into the river to draw the colder water that comes from the bottom of the dam back into the hatchery.
Gray said they have had to switch over to the pumps earlier because the water at their intake in the dam is already too warm for them to use.
Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Fisheries Biologist David Dreves explained that the rain that has forced the US Army Corps of Engineers to let so much water through the dam over the last two months has raised the temperature of the lake earlier in the year.
"Generally rain after April 1st is warm water," Dreves explained. "The only outlet the Corps has for all of that warmer rain water is from low in the dam, and that is where the cold water is stored."
He said the water at those outlets is warmer this year than it was last year, and it was warmer last year than it was the year before.
Dreves said they haven't reached the point that they will have to take action, but they are watching it closely,
"We had a meeting with the Corps about the situation," Dreves said. "Everyone agreed that if it would stop raining so heavily and so often we should be able to keep the fishery in good shape. Of course that was the same day we had that big rain."
He said the shrinking of the cold-water areas of the lake also impacts the Striped Bass and Walleye population in the lake since those fish also require cold water.
At this point however he and Gray said they aren't ready to start calling the situation an emergency, but they are watching the situation closely.