March 3, 2015 Share

Corps of Engineers solicits proposals for new commercial marina on Lake Cumberland

The Army Corps of Engineers on Monday released a solicitation for proposals from private companies to build a 10th commercial marina on Lake Cumberland.

The solicitation covers up to 407 acres of land and water at Rowena, in Russell County, north of Albany, according to a news release from the agency.

There is already a boat ramp at the site, which is accessible from Ky. 90 by way of Ky. 558, the corps said.

A developer would lease the site from the Corps of Engineers and build boat slips and related facilities at private expense.

There are nine marinas on the lake, said Bill Jasper, head of the Lake Cumberland Association, which represents marinas on the giant reservoir.

The Corps of Engineers solicited interest in building a dock at Rowena in 2012 but then withdrew the proposal.

Mike Abernathy, chief of real estate for the corps at Lake Cumberland, said the agency withdrew the proposal because of feedback that the site was too small. The area covered by the new proposal is about double what was offered earlier, Abernathy said.

An initial study envisioned a 240-slip marina at Rowena. The size was limited by the area available to create parking, Abernathy said. Adding land to the proposed lease area could allow for more parking, he said.

Other marinas on the lake opposed the 2012 solicitation, arguing it would hurt business at a time when they were facing hardships after the corps' decision to lower the water level in the lake.

The corps dropped the water level sharply in January 2007 because of leaks undermining the foundation of Wolf Creek Dam, forcing costly changes by marinas to adjust.

The corps kept the water level low for several years to facilitate repairs on the dam.

The drawdown, the recession and, for a time, high gas prices combined to hurt visitation and the bottom line of businesses dependent on the lake. Several marinas suffered financial troubles or closed.

"It just made no sense then," Jasper said of the solicitation for another marina.

The corps allowed the lake to return to full pool last summer — for the first time in seven tourist seasons — after contractors finished fixing the dam.

Jasper, who is president of two marinas on the lake, said the marina association had not taken a position on the corps' new solicitation.

Abernathy said the Rowena area was an underserved part of the lake.

Developers will have to submit a market analysis and feasibility study justifying a proposed development at the Rowena site, according to the corps.

The deadline to submit a proposal is 1 p.m. Central time June 29.

By Bill Estep
March 2, 2015

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