The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with The Nature Conservancy as a supporting partner, have successfully removed Barren River Lock and Dam 1 on the Barren River in Warren County, Kentucky.
“We were 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.
The lock and dam was originally built in 1841 by the Commonwealth of Kentucky at river mile 15, about 15 miles downstream of Bowling Green, Kentucky, for commercial use. The federal government acquired the property in 1886 and later constructed a second lock chamber in 1933-1934. It ceased operation in May of 1965 after Green River Lock and Dam 4 failed and navigation on the Barren River was no longer possible. Since then, the structure had 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 was 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 presented a barrier to boat traffic and presented a public safety hazard. Removal helped 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.
“The removal process started in mid-July and the team has worked hard to ensure we were removing the unsafe dam, which was in an active state of failure, in a safe and controlled manner,” Wernick said.
USACE, TNC, and USFWS were in close coordination with Bowling Green Municipal Utilities in preparing for the removal. Out of an abundance of caution, USACE performed additional surveys to further validate that water supply intakes should not be impacted by the dam removal.
“Overall, Barren River 1 was actively failing, and the potential safety hazards or other risks were too uncertain to not move forward with removal,” Wernick said.
The dam was removed by dam removal personnel that were overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With the dam removed, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue improving and stabilizing the shoreline which is anticipated to be completed by the middle of October.
“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.”