FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Work is nearing completion on a $6.7 million project to strengthen Panbowl Dam in Breathitt County along KY 15 in Jackson, which was initiated after flooding in February 2021 and July 2022 prompted concerns about the dam's stability.
Current plans are for the barrier wall on the lake side of the roadway to be removed Tuesday after which milling of the existing road surface will begin. Following the conclusion of the milling process, paving is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, May 31. Final steps, including shouldering, striping, and guardrail installation, will take place Thursday and Friday, June 1-2.
If there are no delays due to inclement weather or other issues, normal traffic flow is expected to resume on Thursday evening. While the project was underway, northbound KY 15 traffic was shifted to the center turn lane. The turn lanes at Brewer Drive and Lakeside Drive were also closed during that time.
The project has been underway since last October. It involved the installation of an underground barrier wall in the dam to protect against backflow from the North Fork of the Kentucky River into Panbowl Lake during times of high water. In both the 2021 and 2022 floods, water from the river flowed through the dam into the lake, prompting safety concerns. Last year, a shutdown of KY 15 was ordered as it was feared the river would overflow the dam. The barrier wall installation will help stabilize the dam.
During the two flooding events, water from the North Fork of the Kentucky River seeped through the earthen roadway embankment that separates the river from Panbowl Lake. The river reached a record level during the July flood, and nearly overtopped the road. As precautionary measures, portions of the city of Jackson near Panbowl Lake were evacuated, and KY 15 was temporarily closed.
“KY 15 is a major north-south thoroughfare linking southeastern Kentucky with the central part of the state, and this much-needed infrastructure project is a prime example of our state’s shift from emergency response to stabilization in flood-impacted communities,” said Gov. Andy Beshear, when the contract was awarded to Schnabel Foundation Company last year.