Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The demolition and removal of Green River Lock and Dam #6 is underway and the landscape of the area is already quickly changing.
Demolition crews began on Monday, March 28, 2017, and in spite of two inches of rain from last night's thunderstorms, workers and equipment were busy pounding away at sections of the 113 year old structure as pieces flew into the river.
The dam breached sometime around November 25 or 26, 2016 and federal legislation was signed on December 16, deauthorizing the dam from the Corps or Engineer inventory and directing its removal. The legislation was headed up by Congressman Brett Guthrie and Senator Mitch McConnell.
According to Mike Turner with the Corps of Engineers, who is the project manager for the dam removal, work began yesterday to clear paths and brush down to the dam.
Lee Andrews, the construction manager for U.S. Fish and Wildlife explained the process of the removal.
"Our guys are basically demolishing the top the dam which is around 13 or 14 feet thick and the concrete is falling into the river," he said. "The crews are on the other side of the river (south) and are making themselves a road across. Back in November, the dam partially breached. That's a big safety issue. We're trying to get to the scour hole (breach), plug the scour hole, while at the same time, create a man-made breach on the far side. That way, the river will flow to the other side, away from where the guys are working. Once that happens, we'll dismantle the rest of the dam, bring it all back to this side of the river. Once we do that, we'll punch a hole in the outside lock wall where they can get out of the river and finish taking out the dam."
Andrews said the lock wall will be knocked down, turned into stone and will be the material that will fill up the lock chamber. After that, dirt from the surrounding area will be used to fill holes and create a natural material river bank where local officials have said there could possibly be camping, fishing, and a canoeing and kayaking point of entry and exit.
Officials said that every part of the dam and lock is failing in one form or another. All of it will be broken, pounded up, sloped and re-vegetated. After a ten-year period, its expected that no sign of the dam will be visible in any form.
Judge Wil Cannon said he was hopeful that the property could be used for county and city recreation in the future, but at this point, that was just conversation.
"There are many possibilities that could come out of this, but until the dam is removed and the project is completed we won't know what those are. We're hopeful that this will be a great benefit for our area," he said.
Andrews said that if the weather cooperates, the project is expected to be completed in three weeks, however; bad weather could postpone completion into the summer.
Green River Lock and Dam #5 as well as Barren River Lock #1 are also scheduled to be removed this year as well.
Fish and Wildlife officials said they expect the number of canoers and kayakers to double after completion. They estimated 1000 paddle crafts landed at Houchins Ferry last year.
David Phemister, KY State Director of the nature Conservancy said this was a win, win, win.
"This is a win for public safety, it's a win for outdoor recreation and the local economics for Edmonson County and the city of Brownsville, and it's a win for the health of the river."
He was confident that water quality and fishing will also be improved throughout the area surrounding the dam.
The crews removing the dam have experience all over the U.S. with similar projects and have wasted no time in only two days. Over half the dam itself was gone around 11am today.
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