Federal officials overseeing crucial repairs at a southeastern Kentucky dam are considering a change in plans that would use a more modern technique to control leakage.
The Wolf Creek Dam is in the midst of a $309 million repair project to control dangerous seeping under the structure's mile-long earth embankment. The dam in Russell County impounds Lake Cumberland, the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi River that attracts millions of recreational visitors each year.
Part of the seven-year repair project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calls for installation of an underground concrete wall along the embankment that would be thicker and deeper than a similar wall installed in the late 1970s.
But a panel reviewing the project recently recommended that the Corps consider another type of barrier, one that would replace part of the soil embankment with an above-ground concrete structure applied in sections and resembling a staircase.
That method, called a roller-compacted concrete structure, would take at least as long to build as the current plan calling for a new underground wall, said Mike Zoccola, civil design chief for the Corps' Nashville District, which oversees the Kentucky dam.
"If we were to go to this alternative, we would have to do some additional site investigations at the location," Zoccola said Friday. "We would have to do the design, get specs ready (and) bid the job before we ever got into construction. So we're going to look at all that and see how it would work out time-wise."