MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK — The deterioration of the Green River Lock and Dam No. 6 near Brownsville, which has caused the level of the Green River to drop, has spurred Mammoth Cave National Park officials to close river access at Houchin Ferry.
The announcement was made Wednesday by the national park.
“We have blockaded it. We have put barriers up. The pavement ends and then there is this drop-off of about 9 feet so we don’t want anybody going down there and thinking it’s OK to back their boat into the water and find out the water is 9 feet below where it used to be,” said Vickie Carson, public information officer for the national park. “Right now we don’t want canoes and kayaks launching there just because the banks are super saturated. It’s just a hazardous situation.”
Work crews with the national park were out on the Green River on Tuesday, checking the water level.
The water level of the river has fallen due to a hole under the right side of the dam structure, which indicates a partial failure of the dam.
Carol Labashosky, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, explained that the lower part of the dam has been washing away and over time has created the hole.
“Instead of the water flowing over the top of the dam, it is flowing through the dam,” she said, adding this could cause the dam to breach or fail.
The corps of engineers is watching the dam to see what happens.
“It’s hard to predict how severe it will get,” Labashosky said. “The corps is just trying to let the public know it is in very serious condition and that it is hazardous.”
The lock and dam were built in 1904-1905 and put into operation in 1906. The corps of engineers ceased operation of the lock and dam in 1951 due to a lack of commercial navigation and allowed it to fail and restore the river to its natural condition, she said.
“What we are doing is just keeping communications open with stakeholders, (and) putting out information on the condition,” Labashosky said. “That’s basically what we are doing. We can’t predict when it will completely go into the water. The main thrust is that it will ultimately breach but that would not cause any economic or public safety issues.”