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Wolf Creek Dam increasing releases to drawdown Lake Cumberland

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 15, 2019)– The  plans to increase releases at Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky., as soon as conditions allow in an effort to drawdown the water level at Lake Cumberland.

Water managers at the Nashville District headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., said Wolf Creek Dam is currently discharging water at a rate of 28,000 cubic feet per second, but plan to increase to 35,000 cfs as soon as conditions allow. 

In preparation for the increase, Corps of Engineers officials are working with local officials to install a “Hesco” temporary flood wall on River View Road just downstream of the dam where water backs up from the Cumberland River into Little Indian Creek and inundates this remote country road.  When the water releases reach about 30,000 cfs the roadway becomes impassable, blocking public access to about 20 parcels of land and about 30 structures.

Jerry Breznican, Nashville District Emergency Management chief, said the Corps of Engineers is working with local authorities to make every effort to keep the roadway open for landowners as the Corps increases releases at the dam.

“We’ve coordinated with the Louisville District Emergency Management Section on the delivery of the temporary flood wall,” Breznican said.  “Wolf Creek Dam personnel are standing by tomorrow to assist with unloading equipment and partnering with Russell County officials who have committed to support with its construction.”

The Nashville District plans to have the temporary flood wall in place before increasing releases at Wolf Creek Dam in order to keep the roadway accessible.

“It takes about 48 hours to construct the temporary flood wall,” Breznican said.  “We are monitoring the situation and are supporting the operation throughout the weekend.”

The current elevation at Lake Cumberland is the highest observed since April 25, 1998 when the pool crested at 742.44 feet.  The pool of record is 751.69 set in May 1984. 

In 2019 inflows are averaging 33,270 cfs and the lake has risen 19 feet. Although the current elevation of the lake is 736.7 feet, only 34.4 percent of the flood control pool is currently being utilized. 

Anthony Rodino, Nashville District Water Management Section chief, explained that the Nashville District is releasing as much water as downstream conditions allow in an effort to regain storage in the reservoir.  He noted that the period of record median elevation observed for Feb. 15 is 703.7 feet and the typical operation of Wolf Creek Dam allows the lake to fill from elevation 700 to 723 feet by mid-May.

“If we receive no additional rainfall in the watershed, we will not reach typical seasonal elevations until the middle of March. If we receive historical average rainfall, we will not reach seasonal elevations until mid-April,” Rodino said.  “This means that we expect to maintain higher than average discharges from Wolf Creek Dam for the foreseeable future in order to keep up with unseasonably high inflows.”

The flood control pool at Lake Cumberland spans elevations 723 to 760, which allocates 2,094,000 acre feet of storage in the pool and allows for storage of 6.78 inches of rainfall runoff in the 5,789 square-mile watershed.

Wolf Creek Dam provides flood control benefits for communities downstream. The water management plan designates Celina, Tenn., as the downstream control point. The flow at Celina, which is made up of discharges from Wolf Creek Dam and Dale Hollow Dam as well as the 583 square miles of uncontrolled watershed below the dams, is maintained at or below 40,000 cfs.

The dam is a critical component to the Corps’ ability to mitigate flooding in the Cumberland River Basin.  With the possibility of significant rainfall next week and the availability of 65 percent of the flood control pool in the reservoir, the Corps could revisit the decision to increase discharges from the dam and the discharge plan could change.  However, as downstream conditions allow, it remains a priority to release as much water as possible from Wolf Creek.

Wolf Creek Dam last discharged water at a rate of 35,000 cfs in March and April of 1997.  The flow of record from Wolf Creek Dam is 40,000 cfs in January 1974.  River View Road had not been developed at that time.

For more information about how the Nashville District operates the Cumberland River Reservoir System, see the Water Management Education Series at .

As necessary, news and information regarding water management and flood operations will be made available on the district’s website at , on Facebook at , and on Twitter at . For more information about the Memphis District (Mississippi River), go to . For more information about the Louisville District (lower Ohio River), go to . 

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub (www.didvshub.net). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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