Budget blocks possible fees for using Lake Cumberland as water source

This Jan. 14, 2013 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. on Capitol Hill in Washington.
This Jan. 14, 2013 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

The budget Congress will vote on this week would bar completion of a study that would result in charges for cities to use Lake Cumberland as a water source, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced Tuesday.

Somerset, Burnside, Monticello, Jamestown, Albany and McCreary County use the giant lake as a source for their water systems, along with a fish hatchery in Russell County and four businesses in Pulaski County: General Burnside Island State Park, Woodson Bend Resort, Kingsford Charcoal and a power plant operated by East Kentucky Power Cooperative.

They don’t have to pay for using the lake as a water source, unlike users of other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes in the country.

However, the corps was scheduled to complete a study by 2018 on allocating water-storage capacity to the cities and other users. The study would have led to the users being charged a one-time fee that would vary by city. Somerset officials said the fee there could be about $1 million.

The users also would have to pay a relatively small annual fee to help maintain the dam that impounds the lake.

What worried many local officials, however, is that the users also would have to pay a share of any future repairs to Wolf Creek Dam.

The dam has been reinforced twice since it was finished in the early 1950s, most recently at a cost of about $600 million.

Rogers said in a news release that he intended to protect communities around the lake from unaffordable fees.

“Our communities use less than one percent of the water in Lake Cumberland and shouldn't be expected to foot the bill for future unknown rehabilitation projects on Wolf Creek Dam as a result,” Rogers said.