Dam could present serious problems,
County leaders support study of potential failure
ROBYN L. MINOR, The Daily News, email@example.com/783-3249
Published: December 24, 2007
About 46,000 people could be without water if the Rochester dam on Green River were to fail.
That fear has officials in three counties seeking support at least to study the need for repairs on the dam.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2004 recommended that the locks at the dam be filled with rock and concrete. Federal funding for that proposal, however, has not been appropriated.
“They really didn’t look at the structure of the dam itself,” Butler County Judge-Executive David Fields said.
Over the years, the center of the dam, which is a combination of boulders on top of a wooden structure, has eroded.
Fields said he and others worry that heavy rain, which washes debris down the river, could put too much pressure on the dam and cause it to break and no longer hold the pool of water need to serve Butler, Muhlenberg and Ohio counties.
The pool of available water dropped several feet during the drought as a result of existing erosion in the dam and no falling water to replace it, he said.
While there might be little property damage if the dam were to breach, it still would be costly, according to Fields. It would take nearly a year to provide a temporary water source to the residents served by the water.
A major industry, the Purdue poultry processing plant in Ohio County, relies on that water, according to Rodney Kirtley, executive director for the Barren River Area Development District.
Kirtley, former judge-executive of Muhlenberg County, said he also believes that Ky. 70 could be endangered if the Muhlenberg County side of the dam continues to erode.
Kirtley has started meeting with officials from the three counties and hopes to get the force of three area development districts involved.
Kirtley and Fields said they have discussed with federal lawmakers and the Army Corps of Engineers the need to look at the dam’s safety.
“I understand that there are bigger needs elsewhere, right now,” Fields said, noting for one the major undertaking to repair Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland.
But Fields said it is important to get a complete engineering study done of the dam to see how immediate its repair needs are.
“So we can know if this is something that we need to take care of right away or if there is a few years to get the needed funding,” he said.
Fields said he believes with widespread community support, funding for the study will come.