View Full Version : Cumberland River could be in trouble

Ky Tim
06-23-2009, 12:38 PM
Here is an article from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources concerning all of the rain and warming water temps.


Eye on the Cumberland
How heavy spring rains may affect fishing

By Dave Baker

Two years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered Lake Cumberland some 40 feet below its normal summer pool to take pressure off Wolf Creek Dam while the structure underwent major repairs.
Fortunately, light spring rains during those first years did not upset the Cumberland’s delicate balance of cool water and oxygen needed by stripers and walleyes, the lake’s cold-loving fish species.

Heavy rains this spring, however, have biologists concerned about how the influx of warm water and its tendency to rob oxygen from the depths will affect the lake later this year. With each slug of warm water brought by the spring rains, critical cold water leaves the Cumberland as the Corps attempts to maintain a constant lake level of 680 feet elevation.

“The problem is worst when you have a wet spring, which is what we’ve had,” said Southeastern Fisheries District Biologist John Williams. “We’ve dodged a bullet the past two years because of the droughts. It looks like the conditions are right this year for some problems. However, a lot of things have to come together just right to make conditions as bad as they could get.”

Fisheries Research Biologist Dave Dreves is concerned, too, with the impact on trout in the lake’s tailwater. Temperature readings taken at the end of May reveal the lake was 6 degrees warmer at a depth of 60 feet than in May 2008, and 8 degrees higher than in May 2007. The temperature at 120 feet hovered around 52 degrees in May, 4 degrees higher than the previous spring, and 6 degrees higher than in May 2007.

“Those are the magic depths, because that’s where they pull the water from to supply the tailwater,” Dreves said. “The turbine intakes are at 60 feet, while the sluice gate intakes are 120 feet down.”
Trout do best in 55-degree water. Their growth slows and they don’t feed as heavily once water temperatures top 65 degrees. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stops stocking trout when the water exceeds 72 degrees.

Tailwater water temperatures at the end of May hit 59.5 degrees – approximately 6 degrees higher than last year, Dreves said. “We want to keep the river below 65 degrees, and we’re already nearing 60 degrees in May,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a long summer ahead.”

Anglers could be in for several long summers, as the projected completion date of the $584 million dam repair project is December 2012. Project Manager David Hendrix of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the lake’s level will not be raised this year.

“We’re in the early phases of the last stage of the project – this is the most important phase,” he said during an April tour of the construction site. “We hope to know by April 2010 whether we will be able to make the decision to raise the lake by 5-10 feet.”

Both Dreves and Williams said having an extra 5-10 feet water in the lake could help protect fish by allowing the Corps to moderate flows coming through the dam. Currently, the federal agency drops the lake as quickly as possible when it rises above 680. Because dropping the lake too far below the 680 mark risks problems with water intakes, flows drop considerably during dry summers.
Corps officials have drawn water from sluice gates at the bottom of the dam for the past two summers, helping keep the upper section of the tailwater cold enough for trout. During the hottest part of summer, however, the river downstream of Burkesville warms beyond the trout comfort zone. There simply isn’t enough cold water flowing through the dam.

“We want just enough rain during the summer to keep the water running each day, but not enough rain to deplete too much cold water from the lake,” Dreves said. “We need a happy medium.”

Williams, too, is concerned about the nutrients carried in the warmer spring water creating higher oxygen demand in the lake. By late summer or fall, this can create a zone of water without enough oxygen in it for fish to survive. Under the worst conditions, this zone could reside squarely in the temperature zone preferred by stripers and walleye.

Walleyes prefer temperatures between 68 to 73 degrees. Stripers prefer temperatures between 64 and 77 degrees.

Under certain conditions, pockets of deoxygenated water could arise in which stripers and walleyes could not survive if they did not move to another area of the lake. Other fish species in the lake, such as largemouth bass and crappie, can tolerate warmer water temperatures and face less risk than stripers and walleyes.
Meanwhile, work to stop water from seeping through the dam continues six days a week, 24 hours a day. Contractors essentially are pouring a concrete dam into the earthern portion and underlying bedrock of Wolf Creek Dam. “We are using enough concrete to build a sidewalk from the dam to Washington, D.C.,” noted Wes Schmutlzer, safety manager for Trviicos Soletanche JV, the French and Italian companies that have joined for this phase of the project.

The most critical part of the project involves shoring up the area where the existing concrete dam ties to the earthern portion of the dam. Corps officials said the success of sealing this area will play a major role in the decision whether to raise the lake level prior to completion of the project.

06-23-2009, 01:41 PM
"Could be"...

Is in trouble, water temps running near 70 degrees in Burkesville and with the monsoons from this week it will mean even more and even warmer water pouring into the reservoir. This is the perfect storm, and more then likely then end of the Cumberland until, and if the dam ever gets fixed.

I hate to say this, but it is probably a good thing for it to get knocked back, it will also knock back the massive crowds of newcomers, guides, and others who are now overwhelming the fishery. Give it a few years of being dead, and they will all disappear for another decade or more.

Heck now if the thing is off for any length hordes of people flock to spend every waking minute on the water. It is definitely not like it used to be from many different angles. And to be honest the whole place has become depressing over the last couple of years to the point I would not mind seeing it die to quell the crowds. A classic example of how a couple of poor articles and chatter can ruin a resources enjoyment for many folks who are simply innocent bystanders.

06-23-2009, 02:35 PM
Used to be, you could fish around Helms Landing or Burkesville without a lot of traffic. Now, you have to fight the flotillas to get a chance to cast a fly. waterwolf, while I would like to see the pressure ease up a little, if the crowds are not fishing there, there would be that many more hitting the Clinch, the HI or SoHo so I'm not sure what the trade off would be.

06-23-2009, 03:33 PM
Used to be, you could fish around Helms Landing or Burkesville without a lot of traffic. Now, you have to fight the flotillas to get a chance to cast a fly. waterwolf, while I would like to see the pressure ease up a little, if the crowds are not fishing there, there would be that many more hitting the Clinch, the HI or SoHo so I'm not sure what the trade off would be.
To a point, but the CUmberland attracts people that literally live up there for a week at a time, and pound the same water over and over. It also draws people from GA and other states which the Clinch and others dodge because it is not nearly as boat friendly or easy to fish.

It will turn folks to other waters, but I personally would rather have them spread over 4 tailwaters versus 1 tailwater.

Ky Tim
06-24-2009, 04:21 PM
The last time I was there was on June 9 and we had 61 degrees at Burkesville. Didn't realize the temps had jumped that quickly.