In June 9 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
While the past few days have been hot and humid the Lake Cumberland area has had a wet spring overall, causing the lake level to rise over 720 ft. above sea level, 40-plus feet more than what the Corps of Engineers would like while work continues on Wolf Creek Dam.
"The last seven or eight weeks the water has gotten up pretty high," said David Hendrix, project manager for the Nashville Corps. "We had some work scheduled on the upstream embankment that was to have occurred between elevation 700 and 710 and the water has been up above that the past several weeks."
Back before dam work began in 2007, the water level was 723 feet above sea level but when rehabilitation work began on the leaking structure that year, the Corps dropped the level to 680 ft. where it has remained until lately.
This spring the Corps has continued running water through the dam's turbines, which generates electricity, and by opening sluice gates after heavy rains
Hendrix said work on Wolf Creek Dam has been impacted some by the heavy rains and high water levels the past couple of months but the contractor, Treviicos Soletanche JV, was finally able to get back to work on the dam's Critical Area I last week, a move which was chronicled in Saturday's Russell County News-Register.
In recent weeks the level of Lake Cumberland grew to more than 720 ft. because of heavy rains. During the Memorial Day holiday weekend the lake level remained above 700 ft., the highest it had been in four summers.
"With all the major flooding that has been going in the lower Ohio and the Mississippi River everything that we can hold back at the storage projects in our system, which would be Wolf Creek, Center Hill, Dale Hollow, Percy Priest, is good for downstream," he said. "We're at the point now where the crests of the flood in those areas have passed. Of course, we've been releasing from our projects for a week or two now at least. We're very conscience of the area directly downstream of our projects, like at Wolf Creek in particular we don't want to release where we get out of the river banks downstream and cause flooding in the immediate areas."
As of 6 a.m. Monday morning the lake level remained 703ft above sea level with two or more generators running, according to the TVA's Wolf Creek operations website.
The Corps' plans are to draw the lake back down to the preferred 680 ft. and are currently in the process of doing so as levels are dropping at an average of a foot a day. The dam is letting through an hourly average of 27,260 cubic feet of water per second as of early this week.
It could be several more weeks before the drawdown is complete and the lake level is back to the 680 ft. level.
Hendrix said the dam will be releasing in the 25,000 to 26,000 cubic feet per second range until the lake reaches its 680 ft. target in the coming weeks.