It was welcome news for officials around Lake Cumberland Friday afternoon, when the Corps of Engineers announced that it plans to continue to hold the lake level at 680 feet. That means that improvements that have been made at facilities around the lake will remain effective and it also takes some of the pressure off communities who were facing some major infrastructure issues if the level was decreased later this year.

"It is extremely good news," said Wayne County Judge-Executive Greg Rankin. "This means that all the work that has been done on boat ramp extensions has been worthwhile. These locations can continue to be used this year."

In the statement issued Friday, officials with the Corps noted that at 680 feet Wolf Creek Dam is "stable and improving." The lower level, which was implemented earlier this year, has reduced hydrostatic pressure on the dam and decreased seepage, therefore lowering the risks to people and property.

"Hopefully this will have an impact on our tourism dollars the rest of this year and it will give us a jump start for next year," said Rankin.

The project has responded to this lake level with improved project conditions that include: improved critical indicators, slightly reduced pieometers reading and fewer wet spots downstream. Expedited grouting is continuing in the critical areas and should be complete by September, according to Corps officials.

The Corps moved up this decision, which they originally expected to make in the late fall, in order to provide stakeholders more time to make decisions about next year's recreation season and other business interests.

The Corps was able to make this decision early based on the improving conditions at the dam, but Wolf Creek Dam continues to be a high risk with interim risk reduction measures in place and an expedited grouting program ongoing.

Governor Ernie Fletcher was among officials who responded to the welcome news.

"We are encouraged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to maintain the 680 foot level at Lake Cumberland at this time," Fletcher stated. "This will allow for affected entities to make plans for the remainder of this year and next, and will allow tourists to begin planning their 2008 visits to the lake."

Fletcher emphasized that it is important to continue projects that were planned in lake communities after they were advised at the possibility of lake levels dropping below 680 feet.

"It is important that projects to relocate water intakes and ramps continue, because the actual construction repair work for the dam will not begin next year," Fletcher said. "Repairs to the dam could take up to seven years to complete, and risks associated with the project could require the Crops to consider lowering the level again."

The Corps is working to establish criteria and a decision process for the future pool elevations of Lake Cumberland. This is expected to be complete by mid-September and stakeholders and the public will be informed.

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