Edmonson County water in ‘critical condition’ after dam removals

Edmonson County water in 'Critical Condition' after dam removal
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 7:43 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - After the removal of one dam, and the partial removal of another, officials say Edmonson County’s water is in ‘critical condition’.

This is due to low water levels in the Green River and a buildup of sand and other debris in the district’s water intakes.

A meeting was held today at the Edmonson County Water District to discuss the consequences of the removal of one dam and the partial removal of the other. Representatives from the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie, and Senator Rand Paul were in attendance, as well as State Representative Michael Meredith.

According to Representative Meredith, over a decade ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study. The results recommended the removal of two dams in the county. Their projections showed a slight decline in the river’s water level, but so far, the reality has far outweighed their projections. Because of this, those that maintain the water system say the situation is dire.

“Like I said, we work for several water plants. Edmonson County is probably in the most critical condition at this point. With the sand and the mud, and the water levels that they have, I would say they are probably in the lowest condition or worst condition I’ve ever seen in a water plant at this point,” said Kelly Rosser, owner, and manager of Green River Commercial Diving.

With over 30,000 customers in Edmonson, Grayson, and Hart Counties, officials say that they hoped to have a solution before the drought season begins. However, the Corps. of Engineers was not present at the meeting, despite their approval being necessary for any changes.

“We were trying to be proactive and get it before the drought season, but it’s been put off so long that here we are. We want to try to take care of this as soon as possible to try to keep it from getting to that critical level,” said Edmonson County Judge Executive, Ronald Scott Lindsey.

This is not the first time that the issue has been brought to the attention of the Corps. of Engineers.

“They told us last year when we brought this to them in June of last year to give them a couple of months and they would come back with some possible solutions, and up until this point we haven’t gotten anything from them or got it put in place,” said Representative Meredith.

After the meeting, the Corps. of Engineers released a statement on the issue.

“Green River Dam No. 5 removal efforts were temporarily suspended in July 2022 due to concerns from the Edmonson County Water District regarding water levels. We fully understand the concerns from ECWD, and their water supply remains of utmost importance. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy, have worked collectively over the last year to perform additional surveys, data analysis, and additional modeling to further analyze the effects of dam removal on water levels in the river under varying conditions. We will continue coordination with ECWD in the coming weeks. USACE is committed to keeping our stakeholders and the public informed as we collectively move forward.”

Another meeting has been organized for June 6, where officials hope to hear solutions from the Corps. of Engineers.

“We hope to hear solutions, but again, it’s been a year and we’ve not heard anything yet so I’m not very optimistic as of yet either, until I actually do hear those solutions,” said Representative Meredith.

While the removal of the remaining portions of Dam No. 5 has been temporarily suspended, its removal was a congressional decision that must be reversed on the federal level. The potential consequences of the dam’s full removal have local leaders worried.

In the meantime, those that work on the water systems say that their work days have extended from eight to 10 hours, to closer to 14 to 16 hours. Filters in the water system that typically last upwards of 40 hours now need to be replaced after eight to 12 hours.

Judge Lindsey said, “Once the last part of that lock and dam is taken out, it’s gonna drop the water level even further.”

Water quality aside, Edmonson County relies heavily on the Green River for tourism, transportation, and recreation. All of that is at risk with the water level receding.

“In the overall scheme of things, the water availability to our customers is number one, but right behind that is our tourism because Edmonson County, for several years, has been known as a tourist attraction for kayaks, canoes, boats, and with this water level down to a critical level, it’s effectively cut some of that out,” said Judge Lindsey.

At the meeting, the county had the verbal support of leaders on the state and federal levels. However, no action can be made without the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers. Ideas for potential solutions are to be presented at the meeting on June 6.