Damage to the Middlesboro levee has become a problem over the past several years, according to a local official.
Ranger Brent Sewell said the heavy off-road vehicle activity on the levee has resulted in ruts being cut along the top and sides of the levee in many places.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased ranger patrol on the levee hoping to reduce further damage.
Violators will receive citations requiring an appearance in U.S. District Court in London, according to Sewell.
Sewell said the rangers, in conjunction with local law enforcement, will continue to patrol the levee throughout the winter.
Violators will face charges of trespassing and unauthorized vehicle access to federal property with fines up to $125 plus court costs.
“The levee is not the place to ride,” said Sewell. “There are other parks and trails to go ride in the area.”
According to Sewell, several individuals have already been caught trespassing on the levee over the past few months.
Names given by Sewell included Jonathan Hardin, Chris Jones, Dustin Smith and Joshua Goins. In addition to those individuals, three minors also received warning citations.
According to Sewell, continued damage to the levee will compromise the whole system.
The ruts being created are allowing water to be retained.
Further damage will continue to weaken the levee. If the levee fails, it will allow high water to breach the levee and flood the area.
“A small rut could compromise the whole system,” said Sewell. “This is something that needs to be stopped.”
Sewell stated focus was redirected to the levee following the 2011 June floods that damaged the area significantly.
The levee was originally built to keep water from Bennett Fork out of Middlesboro.
Anyone witnessing violators should contact the rangers or local law enforcement to help prevent additional damage that could jeopardize public safety and result in significant flood damages.