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Fearing a dam break that could cause catastrophic flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began lowering the water level on Lake Cumberland on Monday.

If the dam, which is nearly a mile long, were to break, flooding in communities downstream along the Cumberland River could kill people and cause an estimated $3.4 billion in damage, Roemhildt said. Cities along the Cumberland include Nashville, Tenn.

The level of the lake will be drawn down to 680 feet immediately, the corps said, 10 feet below the normal level of 690 feet in the winter. The normal level in the summer is 723 feet.

Thus, after the reduction, the lake’s water surface would be 43 feet below the tree line during summer months. That could edge Lake Cumberland out of the list of the nation’s largest freshwater lakes, said Craig Shoe, resource manager for the Corps of Engineers.

This will be the lowest Lake Cumberland has been since 1981, it seems. They are keeping it high enough to generate power. If it gets even lower than prediction, 680, Pitman Creek may have some surprises to uncover. It gets steeper as it approaches the old river channel, but most of it will still be under the lake. Even at 680, that will make the lake at least 100 feet deep in that area.