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Posted 5/9/2018

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By Park Ranger Cody Pyles
Lake Cumberland Resource Managers office


SOMERSET, KY (May 9, 2018) – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees from the Nashville District have engineered a solution to help improve and maintain access at a sometimes debris-clogged Waitsboro recreation and boat launch area.

Chris Marlow, Nashville District Eastern Kentucky Area operations manager and Wolf Creek Power Project manager, and his staff developed a low-cost, low-maintenance solution to support the debris mitigation efforts of the PRIDE at the Waitsboro recreation boat launch ramp.

The “PRIDE of the Cumberland,” a vessel operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, travels to various areas keeping Lake Cumberland’s waterways and shorelines clean and free of logs, debris and trash.

Elegantly simple, Marlow’s plan involved installing a floating debris containment boom to control the flanks of the ramp’s courtesy float and intercept debris before it’s able to impede access to the water.  It is similar to an oil spill containment barrier. 

Marlow engaged his staff to develop a plan of action, and then he coordinated with Bill Ernest, a maintenance worker, and contractors to empower them to employ the plan and install the boom. 

The containment boom is a series of floats moored together by a cable, anchor, and winch system that can be adjusted to accommodate fluctuation in the Lake’s elevation. The floats are highly visible, yellow in color, and are also marked by solar powered strobe lights.

The ramp at Waitsboro recreation area is popular among fisherman and recreational boaters alike because of its ease of access to Lake Cumberland and close proximity to both the city of Somerset and major access roads U.S. Highway 27 and Kentucky Highway 80. 

Sometimes during heavy rains, a rapidly rising Lake Cumberland pushes massive amounts of downed logs and debris along the shoreline at Waitsboro Recreation Area, making the popular boat ramp temporarily unusable.  One of Lake Cumberland’s most popular launch ramps, Waitsboro experiences closures and numerous issues with usability.

According to Michael Lapina, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Eastern Kentucky Area operations manager, because of its location at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Cumberland River, coupled with a hairpin bend in the main body of the lake, Waitsboro is notorious for becoming inundated with driftwood and manmade debris, at times making it impossible to launch a boat.

“Keeping the lake clear and free of debris is priority,” said Lapina.  “One of the best ways to help manage and keep the lake clear is to use the “PRIDE of the Cumberland” to execute the environmental and recreational missions at Lake Cumberland”.

Because of the high demand for public access, the ramp receives the lion’s share of attention of the PRIDE of the Cumberland, the debris/drift manage vessel operated by the Corps of Engineers on the Lake.

The Pride of the Cumberland consists of two 60-foot-long barges pushed by the ‘PRIDE, a 26-foot-long tow boat. The starboard port side barge has a mechanical knuckle boom material handler with attachments for lifting heavy logs and large debris from the water or shore and skimming debris from the water.  The port side barge holds a roll-off dumpster for debris collection and a wood chipper to   mulch wood of all sizes.

However, despite the tireless efforts of the PRIDE’s master tender and crew of two, removing no less than 10,000 cubic yards of debris annually since 2003, the ramp at Waitsboro has still been plagued with a debris problem.

Lake Cumberland is one of the largest man-made lakes in the nation and each year millions of visitors travel from all over the United States to enjoy the beauty of its 63,000 surface acres of water and 1,255 miles of wooded shoreline.

Lapina suggests that boat operators should always wear their life jackets, use precaution when traveling in unfamiliar areas, when traveling on jet skis or at higher rates of speed, always scan the water for floating logs and also dispose of and pick up visible trash or debris. 

“Lake Cumberland is large and it can present many hazards for just the Pride to collect it all so it’s an all-volunteer effort,” said Lapina.

The staff at Lake Cumberland and Wolf Creek Power Plant continue to identify new ways to manage floating debris and improve processes to provide access and maintain positive conditions on project waters.

James and Faye Bowles from Florida own a boat and spend their summers at Lake Cumberland fishing, boating and camping. 

“We love this Lake, the friendly people and really care about keeping it clean,” said Faye Bowles.  “We know pollution has a negative impact on the lake’s wildlife so we do all we can to pick up our trash and often encourage other too.”  

Post-installation, preliminary results have been promising. The debris boom has received high praise from lake-goers, who are impressed with its ability to improve access and enrich their recreational experience at Lake Cumberland.

The debris boom at Waitsboro is evidence of the Eastern Kentucky Area’s dedication to execute the Corps mission and provide a quality recreational experience for visitors while maintaining and improving the integrity of lake resources.

(For more news and information visit the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Lake Cumberland on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lakecumberland.)

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