Public weighs-in on dam removal in Scott County
GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WTVQ) – The public had a chance Tuesday night to tell the state whether the low-head dam at Great Crossing Park in Scott County should be removed in the name of public safety and the environment.
The dam is on the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek and has been the site of numerous drownings over the years, most recently in May.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife organized a community meeting at Great Crossing High School in Georgetown to get public feedback on the potential removal of the dam. The department is responsible for removing low-head dams in Kentucky.
The dams were created in the mid-to-late 1800’s when paper mills and gristmills relied on water power to drive wheels and other equipment. Most of those mills and factories are long gone.
In recent years, low-head dams have come to be referred to as “drowning machines” and “killer dams” because the water on the surface appears calm, yet water circulating just beneath can pull objects to the bottom, getting caught on other objects.
In addition to improving safety and conditions for paddlers and swimmers, the department’s environmental experts say they believe removing the dam would improve water quality by restoring the natural flow of the creek for aquatic life.
People who live near and along the creek told fish and wildlife officials that when the creek level rises, sometimes they can’t get through to their homes. Many were in favor of the dam’s removal.
“Allowing the Elkhorn to flow freely, it should help the entire community, just as long as it doesn’t have a detrimental impact flowing freely,” said homeowner Elena Moore.
A study commissioned by the local government found the dam has some structural issues and maintenance needs, but is not in immediate danger of failing. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has no money available to make dam repairs, according to the department.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed a century-old dam from the main stem of Elkhorn Creek near Frankfort. High water afterward helped clear accumulated sediment from the creek bed and dramatically increased safety and use by paddlers who no longer had to portage the dam, according to the department.