Corps: Practice bombs ‘likely’ didn’t damage dam

? It’s “highly unlikely” that the footings of the Kanopolis Lake Dam were damaged when an Air Force B-52 inadvertently dropped nine 500-pound concrete bombs on the lake in July, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

An Air Force B-52 from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana dropped the practice bombs – which were filled with concrete rather than explosives – on the lake July 19 as it neared the Smoky Hill Air National Guard bombing range west of Salina. No one was hurt, and the lake’s dam was not hit.

It’s “highly unlikely” the footings were damaged because the bombs fell “well out into the water,” Eric Cramer, a spokesman for the corps office in Kansas City, Mo., said Thursday. The footings extend well above and below the dam, Cramer said. They’re designed to control water seepage beneath the dam’s foundation.

“They have some hits that they think are the impact points” in the lake bed, Cramer said. He said the report would be more conclusive after digital enhancement of the data was completed.

An Air Force investigation into why the bombs fell has not been completed, said Jane Welch, a spokeswoman for the adjutant general’s department. The bombs, dropped in groups of three, struck the water at more than 700 feet per second, said Air Force Lt. Col. Jeff Jordan, commander of the Smoky Hill range.

The water should have slowed the bombs rapidly before they struck the bottom, he said. But a persistent drought in northwestern Kansas has dropped Kanopolis Lake six feet below normal levels.