FRANKFORT, Ky. - Governor Ernie Fletcher today signed an executive order establishing a funding framework to address immediate public safety concerns and other harmful effects caused by the lowering of Lake Cumberland and safety concerns with Wolf Creek Dam.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has described the dam as "one of the highest risk dams in the Corps' inventory." In January 2007, the Corps decided to lower Lake Cumberland to 680 feet above sea level to make structural repairs to Wolf Creek Dam.
"This order is about preparedness, not panic," said Governor Fletcher. "We must make sure Kentuckians in these counties are safe, and have reliable, clean drinking water and utility services. We are working to minimize the impact the lowering of the lake has on residents in the affected areas and prepare for any possible problem involving the dam."
Two letters from the Corps dated February 9 and March 23 of this year have instructed local officials in the affected area to be ready for the possibility of the lake being lowered to 650 feet above sea level by December of 2007.
These steps have been taken in part to allow several utilities to start work that will allow them to continue to draw water from Lake Cumberland if the Corps decides to lower the lake below the 680-foot level.
Albany Mayor Nicky Smith knows too well the problems the 10,000 citizens in his community are facing. "If the lake drops any more, our water intake would be sucking mud," Smith said. "We aren't as worried about the lake being lowered 30 feet by the end of the year. We won't be able to treat water if the lake drops another five feet. We need to move our intakes now."
At least three municipalities that draw raw water from Lake Cumberland may not be able to provide safe drinking water if the lake level dropped to only 675 feet. Drought conditions alone could cause the lake to fall to that level.
Counties impacted are: Caldwell, Christian, Clinton, Cumberland, Logan, Lyon, McCreary, Monroe, Pulaski, Russell, Simpson, Todd, Trigg and Wayne.
"Repeated calls for emergency funding and a unanimous, bi-partisan 37-0 vote in the State Senate to appropriate $25 million for emergency needs in the Lake Cumberland area were ignored by the House of Representatives," said Governor Fletcher. "Because of the failure of the House to act, we must take this action now.
"Governor Fletcher appropriately recognized the Wolf Creek Dam structural issues as a true natural disaster," said Senate President David L. Williams (R-Burkesville). "His attention to this crisis is appreciated."
"Our first priority is the safety and well being of the communities of Wolf Creek Dam," said Sen. Vernie McGaha (R-Russell Springs). "Governor Fletcher's actions today show his Administration's dedication to this goal."
"The safety of the Trigg communities potentially affected by any crisis with Wolf Creek Dam is paramount," said Sen. Ken Winters (R-Murray). "The Governor's declaration of a state of emergency to help the flow of state dollars is a necessary and appropriate step."
Affected communities can apply to the Governor's Office for Local Development for financial assistance. Governor Fletcher has authorized up to $25 million in emergency funding and has directed all agencies of state government with potential existing programs that could aid the affected communities to provide assistance to the Governor's Office of Local Development in the evaluation of community needs.
In a separate action, Governor Fletcher has also directed the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to evaluate and provide appropriate assistance for the needs of the affected communities in providing access to Lake Cumberland resulting from the lowering of the lake. Ramp extension work has already been authorized at Lake Cumberland State Park and General Burnside State Park.