County residents are accustomed to looking at the banks of Rough River this time of year and seeing the docks and piers resting on the bare banks of the lowered river. That is not the case this winter.
With water levels up more than 15 feet above summer pool level and only 13 feet below flood stage, the question many residents are asking is why the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not letting some water out of the flood controlled river.
The sign with swimming restrictions at the swimming hole at North Fork is under water as are many trees and roads around the river.
Summer pool level is 497 feet and the Corps reported the water level on Tuesday Morning to be 514 feet.
But pulling the plug is not an option this year. With the $5 million Safety Assurance project in its second phase the Corps is holding the water in hopes of completing the work on dam.
Phase Two, which began in October, redesigns of the force the water that is let out of the dam and prevents the need for continual repairs.
“Finishing up construction on the stilling basin area (the outlet area ) needs to be completed before we can release the water,” said Public Relations Officer for the Corp. of Engineers Ron Elliott. “We are not at flood stage yet and there is no crisis with the lake rising.“The lake crests at 524 feet and we are at 513 feet,” added Elliott.
Work on the stilling basin is scheduled to be completed by Christmas and the water level will be maintained until just after the holiday.
The plan is to release the water after Christmas and the water level should decrease around the 26 or 27 of December.
The repairs are necessary to maintain the long-term integrity of the dam and increase the safety in that area.
Rough River Lake was built under the Flood Control Act of 1938.
The Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built, and operates the project to reduce flood damages downstream from the dam.
Normally during the fall and winter months the lake is kept at a relatively low level and should heavy rains occur, the water runoff is stored in the lake until the swollen streams and rivers below the dam have receded and can handle the release of the stored water without damage to lives or property.
The rain forecast for later in the week is not a concern for the Corps.
“There is no cause for alarm, we can decrease the water level if we have but it is a trade off,” said Elliott. “At what point do we damage some of the work that is already done?
“We are watching the levels carefully and hoping to get the construction work completed before we have to let the water through the concrete work that is already done,” added Elliott.