FRANKFORT, Ky. – In a quick response to a water emergency created by the lowering of Lake Cumberland, Governor Ernie Fletcher announced today that the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) has approved plans by Somerset Water Service to modify its water intakes.
The municipal system supplies water to about 100,000 people in the Lake Cumberland region. The Army Corps of Engineers lowered the lake to 680 feet above sea level – 43 feet below normal and perilously close to water intake levels for Somerset and six other water systems that collectively supply 203,000 people in nine counties – Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, Lincoln, McCreary, Monroe, Pulaski, Russell and Wayne.
The modification will enable Somerset to continue to draw raw water if the Corps of Engineers decides to lower the lake even further during repairs to its impoundment, Wolf Creek Dam. The Corps has advised local water systems that a lowering to 650 feet is a “real possibility.”
Somerset’s plans were submitted to DOW for review on Feb. 21 and were approved March 5. Somerset Water Service Manager Charles Dick estimates the project will cost $1.2 million.
Governor Fletcher said the Governor’s Office for Local Development (GOLD) is working on a state grant to repay Somerset for some of the project costs.
"The Governor’s Office for Local Development, along with the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, is working diligently to locate available funding resources to address concerns related to the relocation of water intakes that serve more than 200,000 Kentucky citizens,” said Governor Fletcher.
“I commend the city of Somerset and the Division of Water for moving quickly to meet this emergency,” the Governor said.
The Somerset plant provides water to a total population of 100,700. In addition to the 29,218 residents of the city of Somerset, the plant sells water to the Southeast Water Association -Tatesville, the Southeast Water Association-Nelson Valley, Science Hill, the Western Pulaski Water District and the city of Eubank. Eubank in turns sells water to a portion of the McKinney Water District.
Somerset Water Service’s engineers devised a modification in which three to four barges will serve as floating platforms for pipes that will extend 1,000 feet from the shore into the lake pool. Each barge will carry a pump to force lake water through the pipes to existing intakes. From that point the water treatment procedure will continue as usual.
Charles Dick said in-house preparation of the modification plan saved the city money and time.
“We are fortunate to have the technical expertise in our city engineer, Alex Godsey, and our plant superintendent, Kenneth Brinson, to put this plan together,” Dick said. “We saved a lot of money doing this whole thing ourselves and we’ve learned a lot along the way. I also appreciate all the help we’ve gotten from the Division of Water and Governor Fletcher’s administration. They’ve been very helpful working with us and the whole thing has gone smoothly.”
DOW Director David Morgan said Somerset is to be commended for its proactive approach to the issues facing the water plant as a result of the Corps of Engineers’ Wolf Creek Dam project.
“Thousands of residents in the Lake Cumberland area depend on the drinking water provided by the Somerset Water Service,” said Morgan. “Their engineers and public officials have worked hard to come up with a practical plan that will allow them to continue to provide plentiful clean water well into the future.”
The Corps of Engineers anticipates the project to repair the leaking dam could take up to seven years. Governor Fletcher has directed his administration to do everything possible to help communities in the Lake Cumberland area with issues related to the drawdown. The Division of Water continues to lend technical assistance to all the area municipal water systems.