Lake Cumberland water fee study will continue
Despite Congressman Hal Rogers’ efforts to block funding for a reallocation study to determine fees cities and industrial users must pay for using water out of Lake Cumberland and share the cost for future repairs to Wolf Creek Dam, the study at the moment is continuing.
Scheduled for completion in 2018, the study will proceed unabated until, if and when, a provision to defund the study, inserted by Rogers in a 2017 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, becomes law, according to Loren McDonald, project manager at the Corps’ Nashville District office.
Rogers’ provision to shut off funds for the study in the House version of the bill for 2017 has not been approved by the full House of Representatives, and it is not in the Senate version of the bill, McDonald said this week.
The Energy and Water Development measure, approved by the House Appropriations Committee of which Rogers is chair, must get full House approval and then be submitted to a conference committee with the Senate version. The resulting bill, hammered out by the conference committee, if approved again by both the House and Senate, would go the President of the United States for his signature before becoming law.
McDonald said funding for the study must be appropriated annually, and Rogers’ provision in the 2017 bill would halt funding for that year only.
Requiring cities and large water users to pay fees for using water from Corps-operated lakes is required by the 1958 Federal Water Supply Act, McDonald pointed out. Fees are charged at all Corps lakes in the Nashville District except Lake Cumberland, McDonald said. The current study is to ensure “consistent application of the law,” she indicated.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler interprets the Corps’ study to mean cities using water out of the lake will pay a share of dam rehabilitation if needed. The most recent rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam took seven years and cost $594 million. Coming up with a share of that kind of money sounds devastating to budgets of small cities along Lake Cumberland.
Not necessarily so, said McDonald in a recent conference call with the Commonwealth Journal. She said there are currently 11 municipalities and industrial users of water from Lake Cumberland. Totally, these 11 users draw 1 percent of water out of the impoundment, she indicated.
Remediation sharing, if necessary, would be 1/11 of 1 percent of the cost to be shared by each water user along Lake Cumberland, McDonald said. Fees could be amortized over 30 years, the Corps indicated.
Somerset is uncertain how to respond to Lt. Col. Stephen F. Murphy, commander of the Corps’ Nashville District, who earlier this year directed cities using water from Lake Cumberland to respond with a Letter of Intent concerning plans to continue using water out of the lake.
Expressing pleasure at Congressman Rogers’ efforts to halt the study, Somerset city attorney Carrie Wiese said: “We never had the opportunity to evaluate it, whether it was fair or unfair. The Corps wouldn’t give us any numbers. We didn’t know what we were dealing with –– $1 million, $2 million, $10 million. We couldn’t get any information, any numbers.”
Somerset Water Service provides potable water to Somerset, Science Hill, Eubank and water districts and association totaling 120,000 people, Mayor Girdler said. Charles Dick, wastewater manager for Somerset, said Somerset is currently drawing between 9 million and 10 million gallons a day out of the lake.
Burnside Mayor Ron Jones is adamantly opposed to paying for water out of the lake.
The mayor pulled from his files an ancient study by the Kentucky State Board of Health, Bureau of Sanitary Engineering, dated March 17, 1916, which showed Burnside had two water intake points on the Cumberland River, one installed in 1812 and another in 1908.
“We didn’t need (Wolf Creek) dam. We had water in Burnside before there was such a thing as the Corps,” he reacted.
Total cost of the remediation study is $570,000, McDonald said. Some $225,000 is needed to complete the study.