News: Grisoli tours flooded areas in Lake Barkley, Smithland and Paducah
Story by Mark Rankin
KUTTAWA, Ky. – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations Maj. Gen. William T. Grisoli and Director of Contingency Operations and Homeland Security, Karen Durham-Aguilera, toured the Lake Barkley Dam and Power plant, the Kentucky Lock, the town of Smithland and Paducah flood protection barriers, structures and pumping stations along the levees.
Bob Sneed, chief of Water Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, briefed Grisoli on flood control reduction operations and projects upstream. Sneed explained how the Great Lakes and Ohio Division operates, maintains and utilizes Lake Barkley and Lake Cumberland, two of the largest flood control reservoirs east of the Mississippi River. The Corps of Engineers has started the process of recovering flood storage capacity in lakes impacted by the recent series of heavy rain events last week.
This course of action will require the continuous release of water for an extended period of time. Allowing flood reduction projects: Wolf Creek Dam (Lake Cumberland), Dale Hollow Dam (Dale Hollow Lake), Center Hill Dam, and J. Percy Priest Dam.
Lake Barkley Resource Manager Mike Looney briefed him on the current Lake Barkley status and power plant specialist, Jamie Holt from the Lake Barkley Power Plant briefed Grisoli on day-to-day operations, described the Dam Safety Action Classification System .
“He had lots of questions,’ said Holt. “It makes us feel good to know that our leadership has pride in our contributions.”
Grisoli then toured the nearby towns of flood stricken Smithland and Paducah.
Under close watch, Livingston County officials say Smithland’s levee is in critical situation as constant pressure from tons of water press against a constructed Typar geocell wall system provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Livingston County Judge-Executive Chris Lasher, Emergency Management Director, Brent Stringer and Sheriff Bobby Davidson commended the Corps for their support and contributions.
“We are doing all we can to save our town and if it were not for this reinforced protection to the levee, it would be flooded,” Lasher told Grisoli.
High water from the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers, heavy rains and sand boils caused Lasher to issue an evacuation order for town residents last week. The 1123 Sapper Company, a National Guard unit from Lexington, Ky., is patrolling the area and maintaining checkpoints throughout Smithland.
“I’m just impressed with the response of this community,” said Grisoli after touring the levee. “It’s not normal for towns come together, train themselves and use resources like Smithland has done.”
In Paducah, City Engineer-Public Works Director Rick Murphy and Mayor Bill Paxton and Floodwall Superintendent Kenny Brannon drove along the levee and showed Maj. Gen Grisoli the City’s floodwall, pumps, piping and the ongoing work it’s doing to protect the Julian Carroll Convention Center and the Expo Center along the flood wall.
Paxton thanked Grisoli for the work his team has done in Paducah against the flood fight and especially how they continue to work alongside City of Paducah staff to monitor the levee, gates, and floodwall.
“I’m comfortable with the Corps working with us and appreciate their contributions to our community,” said Paxton
The Ohio River at Paducah has fallen more than a foot since its crest at 55.03 feet last week. The current forecast from the National Weather Service River Forecast Center shows the river level to be below 52 feet on Thursday and to start dropping below 50 feet on Saturday. A level less than 50 feet will take the water below the bottom of Paducah’s floodgates. However, the floodgates will remain in place until the river and lake levels drop significantly and stabilize.
The current water control plan for Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River in western Kentucky is to hold the current discharge of 90,000 cubic feet per second for the next several days. This action is being taken to keep excess water out of the Ohio River at locations that are currently at or near their flood crest. This discharge plan supports starting the process of recovering flood storage capacity in Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
This is an important process to complete in advance of future rainfall events. The water control plans for the operation of Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River and Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River are being carried out from a regional perspective by the Corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Water Management Team located in Cincinnati, Ohio.