Businesses Fighting New Marina At Lake Cumberland

Jul 20, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A group of marina owners who are worried a new proposed marina site on Lake Cumberland could further hurt their business are asking a federal judge to block the proposal.

The group says a new marina on the south-central Kentucky lake is not needed because its existing ones are already hurting or even shutting down.

Tourism on the traditionally popular recreational lake has been hampered by the lowering of water levels in 2007 to ease pressure on Wolf Creek Dam while it undergoes massive repairs and reinforcing.

The Lake Cumberland Association sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday and asked a judge to keep the agency from allowing a new marina site to be leased in Russell County.

Bill Jasper, who owns two marinas on the lake, said the proposal should be delayed until the lake levels are restored and businesses have a chance to recover.

"It just seems counterintuitive that this would be the appropriate time to add a marina on the lake," said Jasper, who is a member of the association that filed the suit.

The Corps of Engineers declined to comment because the litigation is pending, said Nashville District spokesman Lee Roberts.

The lake's water line has remained about 40 feet below normal levels since 2007.

The suit says allowing the new site, called Rowena Landing South, to be leased "poses significant risks of immediate and irreparable harm to the other marina owners."

The Corps has said repairs on the dam are urgently needed, and its failure could cause flooding along the Cumberland River in southern Kentucky all the way to Nashville, Tenn. The Corps has said the lake levels would likely remain low until 2014. The new marina could open in April 2013, according to the lawsuit.

The 15-page lawsuit details businesses' struggles on the lake since the level was lowered. Five marinas on the lake have failed since 2010 and there are about 1,000 vacant boat slips, the suit said.

Jasper said of the five failed marinas, two were destroyed by flooding after being forced to relocate, two were sold because of financial problems and another is in bankruptcy.

Grider Hill marina, which is about a mile from the new proposed marina site, has 250 vacant slips and is "operating at a negative cash flow," the suit said. The marina was involved in a forced sale by its lender, the suit said. Another marina, Alligator 2, has seen its revenue drop by 50 percent since 2006, the suit said.

The $584 million project to repair seepage on the 60-year-old dam includes inserting a deep underground wall along the dam's 4,000-foot long earthen embankment and filling underground karst formations with cement.