News: ‘PRIDE of the Cumberland’ keeps Lake Cumberland free of debris
Story by Mark Rankin
SOMERSET, Ky. – The “PRIDE of the Cumberland,” a vessel operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District is hard at work keeping Lake Cumberland 101 miles of shorelines and waterways clean and free of logs, trash and debris.
The PRIDE of the Cumberland’s crew of three people, Rodney Koger, the PRIDE captain, Erick Burke, and Glen Gadbury, both deck hands, work daily to remove unwanted logs, debris and trash from Lake Cumberland making the it safer and more enjoyable.
“We pick up everything from beer cans, old coolers, grills, shoes, fishing lines, tires, buckets, and other debris that people have left,” said Burke.
The PRIDE of the Cumberland is based at the Waitsboro Recreation area and has been called upon more recently due to the lake level rising after repairs to the Wolf Creek Dam and more visitors to the lake using boats.
“We are glad to see them removing the logs and debris from the lake,” said William and Betty Gardner from Campbellsville, Ky. “A log could tear up a boat pretty good,” said William Gardner. “It makes us feel better knowing we have less chance of hitting one with them out here cleaning these things up,” he added.
The PRIDE of the Cumberland consists of two 60-feet-long barges pushed by the ‘PRIDE, a 26-feet-long tow boat. The port side barge has a mechanical boom crane with attachments for skimming debris from the water, sawing logs and lifting heavy debris from the shore or water. The starboard side barge holds a two roll-off dumpsters and a wood chipper used to mulch wood of all sizes and blow it back on the bank.
“It is a safe operation but we just have to look out for one another and pay attention to details,” said Gadbury who runs the crane.
Koger said that the Corps receives requests mostly to remove dead trees and moves around to various marinas and locations where either complaints or requests have been made.
The PRIDE of the Cumberland has been busy lately and seems to never catch up. Burke said another complication is heavy rains that make the water rise to higher levels.
“A lot of debris has been pushed up on the shorelines as the lake level rose up over 700 feet above sea level over the last few months, and is gradually settling down, said Burke.
Koger highlighted “The ‘Friends of Lake Cumberland” as a model of civic responsibility and is glad it exists. The group is a nonprofit organization formed long before the PRIDE arrived.
“We can’t reach the debris up on the banks and that’s when campers or the “Friends of Lake Cumberland” help us out,” said Koger.
Every year more than 600 volunteers that include students, teachers, and parents come together to gathers and pick up hundreds of bags of trash in an annual Lake Cumberland Cleanup.
“Lake Cumberland is too large and presents too many hazards for just the Pride to get it all so it’s an all-volunteer effort,” said Koger.
This vessel compliments the efforts of thousands of volunteers who are already taking ‘Personal Responsibility’ by caring for the lake.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates Lake Cumberland’s 50,000 square miles of shoreline are polluted with at least 200 tons of trash.
Lake Cumberland is one of the largest man-made lakes in the nation and each year millions of visitors travel from all over the United States to come enjoy the beauty of its 63,000 surface acres and 1,255 miles of wooded shoreline.
All that waste has a dramatic impact on integrity of southeastern Kentucky’s environment. Cigarette butts for example, threaten wildlife and aquatic animals that mistake them for food. The filters block their digestive tract, and the animals become ill or starve. Animals will also ingest hazardous compounds of cadmium, arsenic, lead and nicotine that are absorbed by the filters. Lake Cumberland accumulates tons of human-imposed debris every season. The metals and plastic leach chemicals into the water and threaten the habitat for aquatic species and birds in Kentucky and beyond.
Cleaner campsites and shorelines will improve habitat and water quality, reduce mosquito breeding and populations of scavenger species (crows, squirrels, pigeons, rats) and provide more enjoyable recreation for all.
John and Mary Patton, from Toledo, Ohio, own a houseboat and are avid campers that have visited Lake Cumberland for the last 10 years.
“We love this Lake Cumberland, the people and care about our environment,” said Mary Patton. “We know pollution has a negative impact on the lake’s wildlife so we do all we can to pick up our trash and tell others too,” said Patton.
Looking from top of the pilot house, Koger said, “this season has been busy for us and there are more boaters on the water since repairs have been made to the dam and that’s good to see,” said Koger.
Koger stated the Corps is always ready and willing to assist any area that needs help. “Our job is to help the public enjoy their visit and be safe.”