The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that it plans to raise the level of Lake Cumberland this summer by 20 feet, a year ahead of schedule as it nears completion of repairs on Wolf Creek Dam.
“This is great news for tourists, boaters, fishermen and the marinas and other businesses in the Lake Cumberland area,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “The early completion of the work at Wolf Creek Dam will help bring back much-needed jobs in this area.”
The corps said it planned to raise the level of the lake by about 20 feet this summer to a range of 700-705 feet above sea level, Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, the Nashville District commander, said in a news release.
Before raising the level, a safety team must conduct a review of a new barrier wall that is near completion to ensure it meets safety standards.
In 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered the level of Lake Cumberland by 40 feet to ease pressure on the structure.
The corps said the dam needed repairs because a failure of the nearly mile-long dam would flood communities along the Cumberland River.
It has remained at a level of about 680 feet above sea level.
The lowering of the water level resulted in fewer visitors to the lake and hurt local marinas and other tourism-related businesses.
Even at the lower water level, the lake is the third largest lake in Kentucky. News reports said visitation to the lake dropped by 11 percent from 2006 to 2007.
“I think this is the best news we could have received,” said Carolyn Mounce, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The fishermen are going to be in fishing heaven. It’s going to make fishing on Lake Cumberland a premium.”
Gerry Buynak, assistant fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said adding water atop the lake’s overgrown banks will boost fish populations in Lake Cumberland for the next three to five years.
“This will result in a ‘new lake’ fish population boom, with very good spawns of fish such as bass and crappie expected,” he said. “This vegetation will also provide cover for young fish so survival should increase resulting in the production of very strong year classes.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will stock 150,000 more walleyes and 150,000 more striped bass than normal this year.
Altogether, the department will add 1 million walleye and striped bass to the lake this year to give fishing a boost.
Buynak said the department also plans to jump-start the trophy trout fishery in the Lake Cumberland tailwater by stocking 10,000 trout larger than 15 inches next winter.
“This will bring the fishery back quicker as the abundance of the larger rainbow trout in the tailwater has declined drastically due to poor water conditions,” Buynak said.
To see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers release, visit www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Home.aspx