In June 18 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
According to government officials and the company doing the work things are going well, and rumors are not to be believed.
The mass of reinforced concrete and compacted clay makes up the Wolf Creek Dam, which impounded Lake Cumberland at the end of WWII, and has been undergoing repairs for just over two years.
It was constructed on top of caves, which were also packed with clay, and other materials.
Those caves were blamed as previous repairs to the dam were made in the early 70s and are, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, at least partly to blame for the tens of millions of dollars in repairs that have been underway being made over the next 4 years.
"The 'joint venture' has completed the PCEW (protective concrete embankment wall) in Technical Area 1," said Allison Jarrett an information specialist with the Corps' Nashville District Office.
The "joint venture" is TiviIcos Soltanche JV, a construction group made up of two of the industry leaders who worked together to win the bid as general contractors in the repairs of the dam.
Wesley Schmutzler works for them and serves as spokesman.
He explained that the company's plan for the repairs includes the PCEW, which is a thick concrete wall placed inside the clay portion of the dam, down to just inside the limestone foundation of the dam.
Through that wall they will then drill the actual barrier wall, deep into the underlying, and leaking, bedrock, Schmutzler explained.
The company places the first wall in the leaking dam by essentially chewing through the clay and a few feet of the underlying rock with a device that uses cutting fluid pressure to drive and clean a horizontal auger, which looks and operates something like a massively over-built garden rototiller.
Schmutzler said the company then lets that area of the protective wall harden while it moves on to another area of the dam to do the same work. He said they then come back with a more traditional looking, but very large, vertical drill to cut down through the wall, and deeper into the much harder limestone below it.
"Things are going pretty good," Schmutzler said. He added that this is a unique project, being the longest and deepest such wall that has been bored this deeply into bedrock this hard.
He and Corps spokesman Jarrett both said there have been no problems on the project.
Jarrett added that the subcontractors working on the project have been moving along with their assignments. She said Ray Mann road has been finished and now the only place traffic around the dam and construction equipment will continue to mix is where the heavy trucks cross US-127 to go from the work area to the material dumping area below the dam.
She also said the grouting contractor, Haywood, has been drilling and grouting in the two "critical areas" where leakage has been the worst.
Those two areas are near where the earthen dam reaches the northern end of the dam, and where the earthen portion wraps around the northern end of the concrete portion of the dam.
It is in that area, known as Critical Area 1, where it has been rumored locally that grouting had been called off because they hit areas that they could not fill with grout.
Jarrett said, after consulting with those responsible for that work, that there have been no such problems.
As to two other issues that have come out of the dam repairs she said the Corps is working in good faith with local officials and businesses.
Those two other problems are the condition of the fishery and the economic impact. For more on those issues see the other dam stories in this issue.
As to the economic impact on the area in the form of jobs, Schmutzler said they and the other contractors have been hiring locally and there are still more jobs to come.