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News Release

Plans to Begin on Owsley Fork Dam Rehabilitation Project in Madison County

Christy Morgan

Karen Woodrich, Kentucky State Conservationist with the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today that watershed rehabilitation funds are available to begin planning on the Red Lick Multi-Purpose Structure (MPS) #1, located in Madison County, KY.

Owsley Form DamLocal communities, with NRCS assistance, have constructed over 11,000 dams in 47 states since 1948. Years later, these structures still protect America’s communities and natural resources.  Just like highways, maintenance and improvement must be made over time.  In Kentucky, over 200 watershed structures were built by NRCS under the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL-566)with most of them being constructed in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Many of the local sponsors are facing infrastructure issues, such as material deterioration, flood pool encroachment and downstream development.

The Red Lick MPS #1, locally known as Owsley Fork Dam, was built in 1975 as a moderate hazard dam, under the PL-566 program. Due to downstream development, the dam hazard classification was changed to high, consequently the structure is considered non-compliant with state and federal dam safety laws. To assist with this issue, a request for federal assistance was received from the Red Lick Watershed Conservancy District and the City of Berea, the local entities who operate and maintain the dam.  Approximately $500,000 has been allocated to begin the rehabilitation process for this dam. The initial planning process will include looking at various options to upgrade the dam to high hazard classification, while considering environmental, cultural resource and economic issues. Based on fund availability, the planning process is the beginning of a 3 to 5 year project, which will ultimately encompass design and construction of the Red Lick MPS #1.

The Owsley Fork Dam provides water to over 28,000 residents in Madison and Garrard County, as well as providing flood protection to over 300 acres of land below the dam. It is estimated that the Red Lick watershed structures provide over $400,000 in benefits annually to the surrounding communities.