Now that Lake Cumberland’s water level is back to its full summer point for the first time in eight years, the head of the state dock there says the region is in for a great tourist season.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that the recent rain in southern Kentucky has pushed Lake Cumberland’s water level to 723 feet above sea level. The water level at the lake was dropped in 2007 while repair work was done on Wolf Creek Dam.
Lake Cumberland State Dock president Bill Jasper told WKU Public Radio it’s been a challenge fighting off negative public perceptions about the lake over the past eight years. He says this week’s news helps erase those problems.
“We’ve still got one of the biggest waterways east of the Mississippi in terms of volume of water, and people thought we were dry. So, we still get that question at boat shows. So this takes away all that uncertainty.”
The level of Lake Cumberland in southeastern Kentucky will be raised in time for the summer tourism season.
Water levels were lowered seven years ago to allow repair work on Wolf Creek Dam. An endangered fish found in headwaters threatened to keep the lake lowered for an eighth year in a row.
Members of Kentucky's congressional delegation sent a letter sent and had a face-to-face meeting last month with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The lawmakers asked the federal agencies to return the lake to its full capacity.
On Tuesday, Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell informed the lawmakers that Lake Cumberland’s level will be restored to the normal pool of 723 feet by mid-May.
The lawmakers called the announcement is "great news for the thousands of people who rely on the lake for recreation and tourism, and to the local communities, businesses, and individuals whose livelihoods are being impacted because of the lower water levels.”
Lake Cumberland was cleared to rise following an expedited review of how to protect the Duskytail Darter, a 2.5 inch fish on the endangered species list.
Heavy rains have pushed the water level on Lake Cumberland higher than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants it for this summer.
Reservoir Operations Manager Tom Hale told The Commonwealth-Journal the lake will reach 714 feet above sea level Thursday. That's about nine feet below the tree line and nine feet above the 705-foot target level for this summer.
Some 23,600 cubic feet of water per second were being released through Wolf Creek Dam to lower the lake.
There are no problems at the dam. A 7-year rehabilitation of the mile-long structure was completed in March and the lake level was allowed to rise 20 feet for this summer's vacation season.
The heavy rains created tides along small creeks that washed a lot of debris into the lake.