National and local media outlets have reported for years on the dangers of a failure at Wolf Creek Dam. Popular Mechanics listed it as one of the “10 Pieces of U.S. Infrastructure We Must Fix Now” in May 2008.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the dam, situated about 150 miles northwest of Nashville on the Cumberland River, recognized the need for repairs.
In 2006 the agency lowered the lake and began a massive project to mitigate seepage at the 1950s era concrete and earthen dam, which has been leaking for decades.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget will further those efforts.
The budget includes $4.939 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program of the Corps of Engineers. Almost $300 million of that will flow into the Nashville district, which encompasses the Tennessee and Cumberland river basins.
Funding for the Nashville District Corps of Engineers will be divided into accounts for investigations and studies, construction, and operation and maintenance of Corps projects.
The largest amount ever for a single project in the Nashville district — $134 million — will fund ongoing seepage repairs at Wolf Creek Dam.
Additional monies for Nashville will continue a seepage rehabilitation project at Center Hill Dam. A total of $82.8 million will be spent at the 61-year-old dam on the Caney Fork River.
“We fully support the president’s budget,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Mitchell, Commander of the Corps’ Nashville District. “The FY11 budget reflects our commitment to safety by focusing heavily on dam safety and seepage control projects such as Wolf Creek and Center Hill."
Mitchell also emphasized that the funding made available for planning, design and construction of water resources projects will provide high economic and environmental returns.
Some $2.87 million was allowed in the budget for completion of the highway and railroad superstructures construction contract at Kentucky Lock in Grand Rivers, Ky. Additionally, $78.1 million was included for Nashville District operations and maintenance, to fund activities for hydropower, navigation, recreation, environmental stewardship, flood damage reduction, and water supply at the projects.
The FY11 Army Civil Works budget press book, including a state-by-state breakdown, is available here.