***This story has been updated with information from Mammoth Cave National Park
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released press information to local media outlets regarding the removal of Green River Dam Number 6. The Edmonson Voice first reported the breach in the dam on November 29, 2016 and took photos of the area prior to the formal announcement.
Sources told the Edmonson Voice about the proposed removal of the dam back in early February, but we chose not to publish any of those reports until that information could be confirmed, which was Friday, March 17.
According to a statement released yesterday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Green River Dam No. 6 in Brownsville will be officially removed. The removal will be performed by experienced dam removal personnel under an interagency support agreement between the Corps and the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Corps also said that dam removal will begin on March 28, 2017 and removal and excavation of the site will take several weeks to complete. Removal is also entirely dependent upon having safe conditions with regards to the Green River’s flow and height. Access at the site is limited.
The Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District has coordinated with the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Mammoth Cave National Park, The Nature Conservancy and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance on the dam removal. The lock and dam, built in 1904, closed to navigation traffic in August, 1951, more than 65 years ago.
The Corps also said that during the dam’s removal, the Nolin Lake tailwater boat ramp will be closed to boat access. Within Mammoth Cave National Park, river access downstream of Green River Ferry will be closed during the project. Upstream from Green River Ferry to the Dennison Ferry area will remain open. The immediate area of Lock and Dam #6 is restricted to public access while work is underway for safety reasons. In addition to the dangerous water currents, the greatest hazard is being struck by flying rock or concrete debris during demolition. Approaching the dam from either land or water is restricted.
According to the statement, there has been a sense of urgency with demolishing the dam for public safety to keep the area safe for those who use the river for recreation especially with warmer weather approaching. “The goal is to eliminate the safety hazard at the dam,” said Michael Turner, biologist, Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District. “The greatest danger is someone being pulled under the lock or adjoining dam where water flows are not great enough to pass over the dam’s crest. This is especially hazardous when water flows are not great enough to pass over the dam’s crest and the entire flow of the river is passing underneath the structure. In such an event there would be virtually no possibility of rescue,” said Turner. Within Mammoth Cave National Park, the Green River is closed downstream of the Green River Ferry Crossing.
There will be some positive environmental aspects as well, according to Turner. “We expect to see the return of many mussel species, some endangered,” said Turner in the press release. A rapid improvement in the smallmouth bass fishery can also be expected, according to Mike Hardin, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Dam removal will make opportunities available for canoe and kayak trips from Nolin Lake tailwater to Brownsville which is a little over eight miles in length. "Besides making the river safer, this project has the potential to increase paddle traffic in the area and increase visitor spending in Brownsville. Kayak and canoe trips ending in Brownsville will now be possible, which will help with the effort to make Brownsville a Kentucky Trail Town," said Deryck Rodgers, natural resources project manager, Army Corps of Engineers Nolin River Lake.
“In addition to increased recreational opportunities, restoring natural flow to Green River will greatly improve the health of the river on the surface and the health of the underground rivers,” said Sarah Craighead, superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park.
“Removal of Lock and Dam #6 is a victory for public safety, outdoor recreation and a healthy Green River. It will improve miles of the river within Mammoth Cave National Park, benefiting natural resources, local citizens and small businesses alike. “We are grateful to Senator McConnell, Representative Guthrie and our other partners who secured this win for people and nature," said David Phemister, State Director for the Kentucky Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
"Removing this lock and dam represents a great step forward in restoring the Green River's natural flows," said Cindy Dohner, the Service's Southeast Regional Director. "That's good for everything and everyone -- the aquatic species that live in the river as well as the people who enjoy it. Kentucky's anglers, boaters and the outfitters that support their passion play an important role in the Bluegrass State's tourism economy. Congratulations to the partners that made this possible."
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