Barren River Lock and Dam No. 1 Removal Commences to Eliminate Safety Hazard

USACE
Published July 15, 2022

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with The Nature Conservancy as a supporting partner, will begin removing Barren River Lock and Dam 1 on the Barren River in Warren County, Kentucky this week.

The lock and dam was originally built in 1933-1934 at river mile 15 for commercial use. It ceased operation in 1965 after Green River Lock and Dam 4 failed and navigation on the Barren River was no longer possible. Since then, the structure has deteriorated, causing a significant slump across a large portion of the top of the dam and a scour hole under the dam.  Consequently, the dam is currently in an active state of failure. The structure has sat unused, creating a pooled condition in the river with lower oxygen levels, more sediment, and higher temperatures—conditions that are detrimental for aquatic life and the overall health of the river. The dam also presents a barrier to boat traffic and may present a public safety hazard. Removal will help address all of these challenges.

Federal legislation, under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, was signed into law in 2016 deauthorizing the lock and dam site from the USACE inventory and directing its removal.

“We are excited to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy on the removal of Barren River Lock and Dam #1,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District Project Manager Chris Wernick. “This project ensures we are removing an unsafe dam, which is in an active state of failure, but doing so in a safe and controlled manner.”

USACE, TNC, and USFWS have been in close coordination with Bowling Green Municipal Utilities in preparing for the removal. Out of an abundance of caution, USACE has performed additional surveys to further validate that water supply intakes should not be impacted by the dam removal. 

“Prioritizing the removal of Barren River Lock and Dam #1 makes a lot of sense. This dam is failing, and we can deliver a safer and heathier river for all to enjoy,” said David Phemister, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky. “We thank our partners for their hard work and Senator McConnell for his leadership on this issue. This dam is a liability, and a free-flowing Barren River will be a real asset.”

The dam is being removed by dam removal personnel that are being overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 “The aquatic benefits from this project will be significant,” said Allan Brown, Assistant Regional Director for Fish and Aquatic Conservation for the Service’s Southeast Region. “Fish passage and fishing access to anglers will be improved, and the aquatic habitat improvements will be measured in miles of better fish and mussel habitat.”

If low water levels persist for the remainder of the summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects to have the dam removed by mid-October. The demolition of the remaining concrete structures and lock chamber will be initiated concurrently but will take longer to complete, with the complete dam removal effort expected to continue through summer 2023.

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Contact
Katie Newton
(502) 315-6773
katelyn.c.newton@usace.army.mil

Release no. 22-019

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