News: Wolf Creek Dam Media Day generates flow of information
Story by Leon Roberts
JAMESTOWN, Ky. – The U.S. Army officer in charge of the Wolf Creek Dam Foundation Remediation Project informed reporters today on “Media Day” that the project is still on target for completion in December 2013. Inviting the media to receive this message and then share it with the public is what the day was all about.
“It’s critical not only for the Corps but for the region to be able to express what we’re doing out here because so much of it is being done underground and it’s hard to physically see,” said Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander. “It’s important to relay that information about what we’re doing here on Wolf Creek Dam, the progress we’re making, and the successes that we’ve had… not only in the progress of the cut-off wall and re-mediating the challenges at the dam itself, but also to some of the activities that have taken place around the lake.”
At the start of the event, Mike Zoccola, chief of dam safety, and David Hendrix, project manager, briefed the media on the status of the project and pending work in Critical Area 1, which is the area where the embankment wraps around the concrete structure of the dam.
They explained the challenges involved with the karst geology under the dam and embankment, the construction process for the barrier wall, and ongoing work in the dam’s gallery and plaza. They also highlighted how public safety is the main priority as the work continues to reduce the risk of seepage at the 60-year-old dam.
Tom Hale, Eastern Kentucky Area Operations manager, then explained how the Nashville District has and continues to work with state and local officials to extend and repair boat ramps since the lake was lowered in 2007. He provided details about improvements at recreation areas and campgrounds, talked about how the Corps conducted a navigation survey, and then spoke about the enhanced debris removal mission on Lake Cumberland since more of the lakeshore became exposed.
“With the lake drawn down and 40 feet of shoreline exposed at a pretty stable elevation during this time-frame it is an excellent time to intensify the efforts to collect that debris,” Hale said. “So what we’re doing with the Pride of the Cumberland vessel is collecting debris on the water and disposing of it. We also worked from land based operations on the shoreline with heavy equipment, stacking the debris up, and disposing of it.”
Since 2007, the Corps has disposed of 100,000 cubic yards of both natural and man-made material. Some of that is recycled and some makes its way to landfills. “We’ll continue those operations as we’re able to with our funding levels,” Hale added.
During the morning briefings, DeLapp also announced that he is assigning a uniformed military project engineer to the Resident Engineering Office that will have direct access to the commander to increase efficiencies and possibly find ways of reducing the length of the project.
DeLapp said 1st Lt. Alan Stansbury is being reassigned from the Kansas City District to the Wolf Creek Dam project because he can provide added oversight and communication directly to the commander.
“I’m excited to be out here. I think this is a historic project and I’m fortunate to take part in it,” Stansbury said. “The commander has asked me to come out to be a representative for him and I’ll be working in a project engineer capacity. Today is the first day on the ground… I look forward to getting my feet on the ground here and digging into it and making a difference.
Al Gibson, editor of Clinton County News in Albany, Ky., said getting access to the project work platform and project experts helps him to inform the local communities about their safety concerns and to stop the usual rumor mills.
“It’s really important to us and it gives us a chance to get a first-hand account of the progress and what’s going on with the construction and rehabilitation process,” Gibson said.
The commander said he enjoyed meeting with the media and establishing a relationship with them where they know the Nashville District is available and wants the media to help tell the story about this and all other district projects.
“Working with the media is an important part of getting our message out and letting the public know because so many of them don’t get a chance to hear and see what’s going on,” DeLapp said. “It’s important for them [the media] to be able to carry that message out to the public.”
Adam Ghassemi, reporter for WTVF News Channel 5 in Nashville, Tenn., arrived to Media Day via his station’s Sky 5 helicopter, and said when the media can see and get a progress report it lets taxpayers know where their money is going and how it’s being spent.
“It’s kind of a system of checks and balances along the way,” Ghassemi said. “I think it not only lets them know where their money is going but it lets them know how they are hopefully going to be kept safe from ever being in danger, especially downriver in cities like Nashville. If this thing were ever to give way the Cumberland would flood and we would have a worse situation than we had during the May 2010 flood. So it’s definitely something I think the public is interested in, and it’s good that we’re able to come out and get a status update for them.”