Elkhorn Lake Improvement Project

At a Glance:

Location: Jenkins, Kentucky

Date: 2019

Vital Condition: Basic Needs for Health and Safety

Determinants of Health: neighborhood safety, parks, meaningful work and wealth

Affected Population: People Living in Poverty, People with Chronic and Multiple Chronic Health Conditions

Research Methods: Survey, Qualitative research, Literature review

Community Types: rural

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The Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) and partners from Jenkins, Kentucky, conducted an HIA to describe the health, social, and economic development impacts of the Elkhorn Lake Improvement Project, which involves repairing and strengthening the dam built in 1912, removing invasive water lilies, and improving green space and recreational facilities. Elkhorn Lake serves as Jenkins’ water supply as well as a recreation area and focal point for the city.

The HIA sought to increase resident participation in planning for the project, develop new funding resources, inform the KRADD board and local and state decision-makers about the potential health impacts of the project, and support longer-term community development strategies to boost health. It produced the following findings and recommendations:

Dam safety: Because of possible structural deficiency, frequent low-level earthquakes in the area, and increased geologic instability, the HIA recommended creating Emergency Action Plans to prepare the community for a dam breach and flood.

Water quality: The HIA documented repeated historical increases in a variety of contaminants, although water quality remains within normal ranges. It also found that public confidence in the lake’s water quality is mixed, probably influenced by Jenkins’ history as a coal town and awareness of water quality issues throughout eastern Kentucky. The HIA recommended developing mechanisms for improved customer notifications about water quality and safety.

Park amenities: The existing park amenities around Elkhorn Lake include a few benches along the water’s edge, a boat ramp, a small pier, playground equipment, a picnic area, a swimming pool, a softball field, and a restaurant. The pool is new, but other features, such as the playground equipment and connecting path, need repairs or upgrades. To improve opportunities for physical activity and social interaction, the HIA recommended that the city consider park enhancements a separate project and pursue independent funding, rather than tying it to the dam improvement activities and associated funding.

Community development: To jump-start community and economic development, the HIA recommends that Jenkins officials conduct a community-based strategic planning process to clarify short- and long-term goals and visions for the city.

This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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