Community celebrates Barkley Dam 50th Anniversary commemoration

We sometimes take our infrastructure for granted, but 93-year-old Hazel Demery remembers the Barkley Lock and Dam being built and couldn’t miss the second dedication for it Saturday.

The Nashville District of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers hosted the 50th-anniversary commemoration of the Barkley Lock and Dam Project at the Badget Playhouse Theater in Grand Rivers, KY instead of at the dam because of rain Saturday.

Nashville District commander Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham, Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Shea Nickell, and Grand Rivers Mayor Tom Moody spoke at the ceremony Saturday.  

Murphy talked about how it has helped keep traffic off the road.    

“They’re extremely cost efficient in moving goods to market. We have things in the United States that Russia doesn’t have,” Murphy said.

Barkley Dam is more than 10,000 ft. long and 157 ft.  tall and currently, Barkley Lock passes more than 3.9 million tons of cargo through it as well as over 1600 commercial, government, and recreational vessels each year.

“This includes coal that makes the electricity that charges your iPhone, rock, and asphalt that builds roads many of which you drove in on today, and agriculture, commodities that feed us and the world,” Murphy said.

Murphy says the project cost about $142 million dollars back when it was built. A low price compared to the Kentucky lock addition they began in 2000 costing $875 million.

Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Shea Nickell reminded people of the life Alben w. Barkley.

“Barkley proved it’s not important where you begin in life but how you move through it and where you end up,” Nickell said.

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham spoke about the history and how it can’t be forgotten that it came at a cost.

“Remember those citizens of Kentucky and Tennessee who made the sacrifice of their homes and their communities for the benefit of those who enjoy the blessings of this dam and this lake,” Cunningham said.

Demery remembers those displaced and against the dam but also remembers how the first dedication brought them together just like Saturday.

“I’m just proud of everything we’ve done and everything the Corps of Engineers has done,” Demery said.

She also fondly remembers after the first dedication riding on a barge with a couple of friends up to Nashville to have lunch and then coming back. She had worked at a rock quarry that provided materials to finish the project.

“I was an industrial nurse there and my husband was a shovel operator,” Demery said.

Following the ceremony, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers hosted a reception with live music and food for everyone who came out at the Grand Rivers Community Center.

To see photos from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers of the Barkley Lock and Dam when it was first built click here.

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