March 29–BROWNSVILLE — Removal of Green River Lock and Dam No. 6 began late Monday afternoon and continued on Tuesday.
The lock and dam are being dismantled due to deterioration that has caused a safety hazard. The dam partially breached in November, and federal legislation authorizing the removal for the purposes of river recreation and environmental restoration was approved by Congress in December.
The lock and dam are being removed by experienced dam removal personnel through an interagency agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.
Media representatives were invited out to the lock and dam on Tuesday to document the dismantling of the structures.
Lee Andrews, construction manager for the project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained work crews are using hydraulic drills to bust up the lock and dam.
“It looks like a pile of rock, but basically what’s going to happen is the crew is essentially creating a road across (the river),” he said.
With the road, the work crews will be able to access a scour hole that was created by the partial breach of the dam, and at the same time they will create a manmade breach on the opposite side of the dam.
“That way the river will go to the other side away from where the guys are working. Once that happens, we will dismantle the rest of the dam (and) basically bring it all the way back across to this side (south side) of the river. Once we do that, we will punch a hole in the dam structure, the outside lock wall more specifically, so they can get out of the river and finish taking the rest of the dam down,” he said.
The lock will be dismantled in place and the rubble pushed into the lock chamber.
“We will then start piling the rest of that debris in there and we will essentially reform the river bank right there where the structure is so that the river can fill it back in with sediment,” Andrews said.
Over time vegetation, including trees, will regrow on the river banks.
“Chances are in 10 years you may only see an occasional piece of rubble,” he said. “The river is really good at filling itself back in.”
The work is estimated to take two to three weeks, depending on water levels.
“The legislation that authorized this project was just passed in December. That called for the removal of this structure and four the purposes of river recreation and environmental restoration and those sort of things,” said Mike Turner, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It also directed the Corps to transfer the (north) side of the bank to the National Park Service for inclusion in Mammoth Cave National Park and this section (the south side) to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.”
The KDFWR will receive about 18 acres of land on the south side of the river bank. A portion of the property will be used to create a parking lot for those wishing to launch their canoes or kayaks on the river there, as well as those wanting to fish on the river.
“We anticipate a pretty good increase in sport fishery, such as small mouth bass, muskie, walleye and rock bass. There is pretty good document data that says once these dams come out and the river returns to a free-flowing state, we get a tremendous reaction by the fisheries in the river,” said Greg Johnson, commissioner for KDFWR. “You are basically going to have 137 miles of free-flowing stream from Green River lake down to Lock and Dam No. 5. That will be a long, long stretch of Green River that will now be free-flowing.”
Brownsville and Edmonson County stand to benefit economically from the removal of the lock and dam.
In 2016, a 1,000 canoe trips are made from the Nolin Lake Tailwater to Houchin Ferry.
“We are anticipating 1,000 trips plus and probably a lot more,” Turner said, adding that those people will more than likely shop at Brownsville businesses and dine at local restaurants.
The same piece of federal legislation that authorized the removal of the Green River Lock and Dam No. 6, also calls for the removal of Green River Lock and Dam No. 5 and Barren River Lock and Dam No. 1. Exactly when those structures will be removed has not yet been determined, he said.
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