NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 10, 2020) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has completed work to repair a slope above the Cumberland River diversion channel in Loyall, Kentucky, a project that included the reinterment of an American Revolutionary War soldier.
The Nashville District completed the Loyall Diversion Channel Project in 1999, an effort to build a diversion channel, earthen embankments, floodwall, and closure structures to divert potentially damaging Cumberland River flows from city center in Loyall, and also to protect Rio Vista, Kentucky. A landslide developed in early 2016 at the Wix Howard Cemetery and six graves above the diversion channel were at risk of falling into the escarpment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters determined that a design deficiency from unseen site conditions caused the slope failure, making it possible for the Nashville District to move forward with corrective action.
“With heavy rains in the winter of 2016 and poor drainage conditions, a portion of a hill side slumped creating a large scarp, jeopardizing gravesites up above on the hillside,” explained Lt. Col. Sonny B. Avichal, Nashville District commander. “I’m proud of everyone in the Corps of Engineers, local and state governments, and community that came together to find solutions before the slope could further deteriorate.”
In November 2016 the remains of American Revolutionary War Private Samuel Howard, his wife Cloey, and baby Howard, and three other graves were exhumed. The U.S. Army reinterred the Howard family May 12, 2017 at Resthaven Cemetery in nearby Baxter, Kentucky. The veteran of the war for independence received full military honors, demonstrating the Army’s commitment to a patriot who braved the encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and stood at Yorktown, Virginia, when British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. George Washington.
In all, the Nashville District and its contractor Brockington and Associates, Inc., relocated remains from 67 graves at Wix-Howard Cemetery through March 2018 as a result of the slope failure, noted Dana Sexton, project manager during the relocations.
Congressman Hal Rogers, Kentucky District 5, said while it’s obviously important to stabilize the slope to protect the channel below, what is especially meaningful about this project is the special emphasis given by the Corps of Engineers to relocate the graves and respect the wishes of hundreds of concerned descendants.
“I'm thankful for the Army Corps of Engineers' diligent work to protect the historic Wix-Howard Cemetery in Loyall and safely relocate the remains of the Revolutionary War soldier and his family,” said Congressman Rogers. “I was honored to secure the federal funding necessary to complete this unexpected project to preserve and honor the many leaders and heroes of Harlan County who were laid to rest on that hill.”
The Corps of Engineers awarded the $3,921,775 Loyall Slide Repair contract Feb. 13, 2019 to Kay & Kay Contracting, LLC, in London, Kentucky. The contractor completed slope repair May 27, 2020.
Michael Lee, Nashville District project manager, said a lot of credit for completing the repair project on time and on budget goes to Mike Merida, contractor’s project manager; Zach Sewell, contractor’s superintendent; Allen Malcomb, Nashville District project engineer; and Joe Duncan, Nashville District quality assurance inspector; and Bruce Rogers, Nashville District geologist.
Once the Corps completed the grave relocation process, the rest of the project involved a combination of engineering solutions to stabilize the slope, Lee said.
“We had to excavate the slide area from the top down in a series of lifts, stabilizing the exposed rock with rock bolts and geogrid (geosynthetic material, made of polymers, that is used to reinforce soil behind retaining walls),” Lee said “We placed engineered rock fill in a series of lifts against the excavated rock wall to provide a buttress for long-term stability.”
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on 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.)