E’town starts first phase of Buffalo Lake Restoration Project

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The City of Elizabethtown has taken initial steps toward its Buffalo Lake Restoration Project. A major component of the project is to dredge the lake to remove sediments that have deposited over the past 50 years. MARY ALFORD/The News-Enterprise

Posted April 22, 2020

Elizabethtown has taken its first steps toward restoring flood storage capacity at Buffalo Lake.

As part of the Buffalo Lake Restoration Project, the city also will improve habitat, create more recreational opportunities and renovate the outlet works of the dam.

Amy Inman, public relations for the city, said Buffalo Lake was developed years ago to control flood water from going into downtown Elizabethtown.

“Over the years, silt has built up in the basin,” she said. “At one point, it was a significantly deep lake and now at its deepest point we maybe have six feet.”

Stormwater Director Rita Davis said a major component of the project is to dredge the lake to remove sediment deposited over the past 50 years.

In order to dredge the lake, it will need to be drained for a period of time until the lake bottom dries so excavating equipment can traverse it. Through a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the city was able to relocate hundreds of fish to Freeman Lake ahead of opening the gate valve to release the water from Buffalo Lake.

“This was a really neat process that started with Fish and Wildlife setting and baiting hoop nets, and allowing them to sit for a couple of days,” she said. “(Thursday), they returned to empty the nets and also made a couple of laps around the lake with the electrofishing boat.”

Davis said the boat stuns the fish temporarily so they float to the surface and can be netted.

“Most of the nicer game fish were captured this way,” she said, noting the fish then were taken in a fish hauling tank to Freeman Lake.

Inman said they have been asked about other wildlife. Wildlife that will not have its habitat disturbed will not be moved.

As far as dredging the lake goes, Davis said some of the dredged material will be wasted on site to enhance recreational opportunity at the lake. Creating fishing access, fish habitat, kayak access, and trail enhancements are just a few of the options that could be incorporated into the project, she said. There may also be an opportunity for the public to load and haul material, if they have a need for fill dirt.

“We are still exploring options for total disposal of the dredged material,” she said.

Other components of the project being considered include a wildlife viewing area, native wildflower plantings and educational islands.

“We hope to have the bulk of this project complete within the next year, but it will be largely dependent on the weather and the amount of time it will take for the lake bottom to dry,” she said.

“We also have plans to have similar lake restoration projects at Valley Creek and Trooper Lakes, but of those are likely a couple of years out. The stormwater department is excited to spearhead this important project for our community.”

Inman said the project is budgeted at about $1 million, but that number could change.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

Source: thenewsenterprise