After structural issues were found on Lake Cumberland’s Wolf Creek dam, substantial repair work took place. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a new wall in March 2013. The massive concrete wall is 4,000 feet long and 275 feet thick.
With the new barrier in place, the Army Corps began to let water flow back in from the Cumberland River. By April, Lake Cumberland had risen 18 feet and businesses dependent on lake water were optimistic that tourists would come back for summer vacation.
But Mother Nature had other plans. While the dam was being repaired, low levels in the Cumberland River provided ideal habitat for an endangered species of fish – the duskytail darter. It is native to Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
The tiny fish, with an average size of just more than two inches, worked its way up the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, reclaiming five miles of the stream. And now releases of water back into Lake Cumberland have been halted.
Water levels are currently near 690 feet, 10 higher than during repairs, but about 35 feet lower than expected levels. The Army Corps, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, must complete an environmental survey to assess impacts to the fish before additional releases can move forward.