According to the Army Corps of Engineers Wolfe Creek Dam in Russell County is leaking. State officials said by keeping the water level in the lake far below the normal summer mark it will ease pressure on the dam while workers begin emergency repairs to try to plug leaks.
The water level this year will be 680 feet above sea level. Down from a normal mark of 723 feet.
Officials believe if the dam breaks it could cause catastrophic flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Millions of people are learning that Lake Cumberland isn’t going to have as much water in this summer and many are worried. Some who depend on the lake say they’re already devastated, others say the problem isn’t bad.
The Somerset Boat Club on Pittman Creek has been around as long as Lake Cumberland itself. It was organized in the 1930’s before Wolf Creek Dam was even built. They were the first dock on the lake and now they’re the first to shut down operations thanks to the lake being lowered ten more feet to take pressure off the leaking dam.
“I understand the problem but I don’t understand why we get this notice of the drop of the last ten feet in ten days notice to move our entire marina,” said Bill McCord of the Somerset Boat Club.
McCord and the 82 other boat owners here are working feverishly to salvage what they can of the boat club. These houseboats are floating in just two to three feet of water. One dock is already on mud.
“We lost our electric; we lost our water; we lost our club and now we’re having to start over,” McCord said.
McCord and some others fear the worst. Today, nearly 200 people asked Kentucky commerce officials for help. Some worry about boat ramps out of water. Others like McCord’s group want financial help to fix broken docks.
“It could cost us a million dollars or more to get back to where we were,” McCord said.
But many of the people who came to this meeting say the thing they fear the most is not the leak but the false perception that the sky is falling.
Steve Syphax of Somerset said misinformation could hurt the local tourism industry worse than a lower lake.
“Make people understand that this is a situation that this needs to be corrected but it’s not going to hurt recreational aspects of the lake,” Syphax said.
Still others say extending boat ramps and fixing docks is already costing them too much money and many here just hope that tourists will be here next summer to spend it.
Kentucky’s commerce officials say they will be having more meetings to help people lessen the economic blow the lake’s level is expected to have.