Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 3rd Meeting

of the 2007 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> September 12, 2007

 

The<MeetNo2> 3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was held on<Day> Wednesday,<MeetMDY2> September 12, 2007, at<MeetTime> 8:00 AM, at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park. Senator Tom Jensen, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representatives Jim Gooch Jr, Co-Chair, and Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators David E. Boswell, Ernie Harris, Bob Leeper, Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, Dorsey Ridley, Richie Sanders Jr, Representatives Dwight D. Butler, Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, James R. Comer Jr, C. B. Embry Jr, Jeff Greer, Jimmy Higdon, Brad Montell, Tim Moore, Don Pasley, Marie Rader, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Dottie Sims, Jim Stewart III, Tommy Turner, Ken Upchurch, and Susan Westrom.

 

Guests: LTC Bernard Lindstrom, Barney Davis, Mike Ensch, William M. Wilson, Army Corp of Engineers; Mark York, Interagency Task Force; General Bailey, Homeland Security/EMS; Secretary George Ward, Department of Fish and Game; Mike Hancock, Department of Transportation; Bob Amato and John R. Twitchell, Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative; Colleen Chaney, GOLD.

 

LRC Staff:† Tanya Monsanto, Committee Staff Administrator; Hank Marks; Lowell Atchley; Susan Spoonamore; and Lindsey Murphy, Committee Assistant.

 

The 3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was held on Wednesday, September 12, 2007, at 8:00 AM CST, at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park.† Senator Tom Jensen called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

A quorum was not established and the minutes were not approved.† The committee proceeded to receive testimony.† Sen. Jensen recognized Rep. Tim Moore for his overseas service having returned from Afghanistan.† Then, Lt. Colonel Bernie Linstrom commenced with a briefing on Wolf Creek Dam. †He stated that the Nashville District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been actively working on this project and then identified the places the committee would view: the hydroelectric plant, Holcombís Landing and the construction site on top of the dam.

 

Colonel Linstrom gave a brief history of the dam which was built in the 1930s and completed in the 1950s.† There are major sections to the dam including a concrete section which contains the powerhouse, an earthen section, and a switchyard.† The problems with the dam stem from the foundation it was built on. †There are limestone caves below the dam and as the clay has eroded over the years.† There has been seepage creating solution features or fissures in the earthen portions of the dam. †The seepage moves fine particles out and into downstream areas and this has led to sinkholes and muddy downstream flows.†

 

Then he discussed the repair plan.† USACE has contracted with a firm to grout the entire length of the dam, about 300,000 cubic ft, to fill in the solution features.† The grouting is not a permanent solution.† Two cement cutoff walls will be built, one of which will go as deep as 773 ft. We are on schedule with repairs.† The cutoff walls should be finished by 2013. †Then, Col. Linstrom discussed the interim measures taken to reduce risk.† The first is a dam safety training program and increased monitoring.† We have installed remote cameras and worked with emergency management to give inundation maps and develop emergency response plans.† We also reviewed emergency notification procedures and decided to use the emergency weather service.

 

The larger discussion has centered on the emergency lake level lowering, which was set at 680 ft.† Lake elevations are normally at 725 ft, but this created pressure on the dam.† So the lowering was needed for public safety.† Sen. Boswell asked if the repairs will use the newest technology.† Colonel Lindstrom said yes.† USACE furthered that when the dam was constructed, the technology at that time was state of the art.† The technology being used now is likewise world class.

 

Rep. Montell asked if there will be a point when the water level behind the dam can be raised.† USACE replied that they are developing a process for determining the pool levels, but do not foresee a rise to 723 ft before the dam work is complete. Then, Mike Ensch, Chief of Operations at USACE, Nashville, discussed the impacts and consequences of the dam project. He stated that the USACE cannot expend funds not authorized for project purposes.† Then, he enumerated the 5 project purposes:† flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and navigation. Water supply is not a project purpose and this creates problems.

 

Mr. Ensch concluded with a discussion of the lake lowering.† We learned that going below 680 will ruin water intakes.† At 680, these intakes are stable and the municipalities and users can respond to secure their supplies. USACE will not need to lower further unless there is an emergency or some unforeseen negative event that would require it.† We are developing a new process to assess pool levels and possibly to raise the level in the future.

 

Sen. Jensen asked if anyone from state government has talked to USACE about drought mitigation plans.† USACE said no.† Sen. Jensen then asked if there was a situation where a marina floated downstream and do they need USACE approval to relocate.† USACE said yes a marina was forced downstream after a storm and no, the marina does not need USACE approval to relocate.† Sen. Jensen then asked if there is more stress on the dam, will the lake levels be lowered further.† USACE replied there are no indications at this time that warrant further lake lowering, but the problem is that the structural issues lie 200 ft below sight.† We use instruments to determine hydrostatic pressure below the dam.

 

Sen. Jensen asked how many electric plants rely on the dam.† USACE stated that there are 27 cooperatives and the South East Power Association (SEPA).† Sen. Jensen asked if nothing were done and a breach occurred, what areas would be flooded.† USACE replied at 723 ft the flood would be worse than at 680 ft.† However, at 680, the flooding would extend as far as Nashville, Tennessee and would cost about $3 billion dollars and uncalculated loss of life.

 

Rep. Steward talked about the difficulties that staff face in working with the USACE and described a meeting a few years ago where the USACE, Louisville District refused to respond to a request for testimony.† USACE, Nashville stated that they did not know about the occurrence, but stated they would look into it.† They stated that USACE wants to be responsive.† The committee then recessed to take a tour of the dam and then to reconvene at 1:00 PM CSDT.

 

The committee reconvened at 1:00 PM CSDT and Sen. Jensen recognized Mr. Mark York, Chair of the Lake Cumberland Work Group.† He stated that the lake serves 203,000 people with drinking water, fire protection, and electric power.† It also serves as a place for discharges from sewers. Then Mr. York discussed the implications of a catastrophic failure.† He stated it would be 4.5 hours before Burkesville was completely inundated. He talked about the activities of the working group and how parks is trying to counter a negative image after bad publicity about the dam.

 

The Trey Bailey, Director of Kentucky-EMS talked about developing plans for worst case scenarios through enhanced GIS mapping of schools, hospitals, homes and other facilities. We have also put together exercises with USACE, the Coast Guard, and Fish and Wildlife to deal with impacts after a breach.† Then Joel Schrader, Deputy Director of Homeland Security talked about 3 initiatives to notify the public in the event of an emergency breach.† The first is the weather radio project which were sent out to people in affected communities.† The second is the reverse 911 project which dials residents located below the dam in the event of an emergency.† The third is a new E-911 system that will aid in locating cell phone users.†† Another important initiative is dispatch relocation in the event that the call dispatch center is destroyed or goes offline.

 

Then Secretary Ward discussed the tourism impacts.† The cabinet has been concerned with lake access for pleasure and houseboats, negative publicity, and improvements to fisheries.† After the lake lowering 50 of the 60 ramps would be out of the water and needed extensions. Then, Lake Cumberland had to deal with negative publicity by spending $110,000 on a special advertising campaign.† Benjy Kinman with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources thanked everyone for attending the Step Outside Event on September 11th and then described some of the important concerns about lake lowering.† First, KDFWR has been concerned about losing the trophy bass.† The warmer water has hurt the brown trout and trophy reds were taken off the list until the water runs colder.† The other factor is the fish hatchery which is used to stock 66 bodies of water throughout the state.† USACE has installed a pumping system to keep the water cool.† Then Mike Hancock with the Department of Transportation discussed the long term goal of rerouting Highway 127 so that it by-passes the dam itself.† It is important to have good evacuation route and to keep information open about alternative routes in case of an emergency.†

 

Sen. Jensen asked how much business has been harmed by the negative publicity.† Secretary Ward stated that marina owners are operating on a 40% loss; although slip rentals have held.† Sen. Jensen asked whether the state could gauge the financial impact of the negative publicity.† Secretary Ward said no, but we suspect the impact has been substantial. Benjy Kinman added that we do not know the impact on fishing licenses.

 

Sen. McGaha talked about the Governorís response to the Wolf Creek Dam situation and praised those involved for responding quickly to find solutions.† He stated that the $25 million in emergency assistance has helped communities.

 

Then, Mr. John Twitchell with East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) and Bob Amato with the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) discussed the impact on regional electric systems and on the Cooper Power Station.† Bob Amato stated that Lake Cumberland is the primary source of cooling water and if lake levels were below 673 ft then the Cooper station will have to shut down.† Transmission would be affected because of Cooperís role in supplying power to the electric grid.† Nancy Shelton with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) stated that they have 2 plants on the Cumberland river.† She stated that these plants have had to be derated which means lowering the electrical generation capacity at the plant.† These plants serve 28 counties.† Mr. Twitchell stated that Cooper supplies to 500,000 households in eastern rural Kentucky.† He stated that by December the Cooper station will operate at normal levels.

 

Rep. Gooch stated that the presentations were enlightening and that Providence Kentucky purchases power from SEPA.† We have been impacted.† Rep. Montell asked if rates will go up this year.† Mr. Twitchell stated yes. There has already been an increase in rates due to off system power purchases.† Sen. Jensen asked how much rates will rise.† Bob Amato stated approximately 5% to consumers.† Sen. McGaha stated that rates have gone up in his area already.

 

Then Julie Roney with the Drinking Water Branch in the Division of Water discussed the drinking water impacts of the lake lowering.† She stated that intake relocations are impact, but there are also waste water impacts and concerns for taste, odor, and algae.† Drinking water has higher costs because it costs more to treat the water and the drought situation is compounding the problem.† Right now we are dealing with line extensions for well water users, maintaining reliable power because treatment plants must have uninterrupted power.† Water systems cannot go below 670 ft and if there is a water shortage then this creates a ripple effect with other systems that purchase water.†

 

Then Commissioner Colleen Chaney, Governorís Office of Local Development (GOLD) discussed funding for water districts.† She stated that there is $14.8 million to allocate to various counties.† Eight projects have been approved and 7 are under review.† These are long term problems and wonít be resolved in a short term financial fix.† We are looking at a 7 year cycle.† Sen. McGaha thanked Commissioner Chaney for working constructively with the water districts in his area.

 

Then Gary Larimore with the Rural Water Association introduced three water district representatives representing the Water Districts of Somerset and McCreary County.† They stated that their districts are having more financial impacts than disclosed.† There are issues with permitting and we have to pay an impoundment fee for water usage.† The fee is an up front $4 million and then is an annual fee based on hydroelectric power that the dam forgoes for our water usage.† That will be in the $75,000 range.† These fees are impactful and passed onto the consumers in higher rates.

 

Tim Moore expressed concern about the impoundment fee.† He stated it wasnít the right way to do business.† Sen. McGaha asked if the impoundment fee was because drinking water wasnít a corp. purpose.† USACE replied yes.† All intakes pay for water from the reservoir. Sen. McGaha continued by asking how do you determine the value of the small portion of water used by one person or another for the purpose of charging users.† USACE stated that that is the reason for a reallocation study which the US Congress hasnít authorized.† The study would determine the value of that sliver of water used by the public.† Sen. McGaha concluded by asking if the impoundment fee is the way the USACE gets the money in lieu of a reallocation study.† USACE replied yes.† The meeting adjourned at 3:21 PM CST.