“And now this,” continued an obviously frustrated Mounce. “I owe these people an apology. I told them the lake is coming back ... the dam is fixed.”
Mounce concedes perception is worse than reality. However, publicity going out about the lake not returning to normal projects an image of a “dry” lake that has caused the tourism industry to suffer for seven years, she said.
Mounce paused a moment. “We have plenty of water ... all indications are we had a wonderful tourism season last year,” she concedes.
Before the politicians weigh in, let’s hear from J.D. Hamiton, owner-operator of Lee’s Ford Marina Resort. Hamilton admits to having suffered financially during the seven summers the lake has been lower than normal.
“Why now?” Hamilton wonders about protecting the endangered fish. He has reports that show darters have consistently been found in the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River since at least 1998. Hamilton says he has copies of official reports that show greatest concentrations of duskytail darters are far from Lake Cumberland.
“This is not new news,” Hamilton continued. “Why hasn’t something been done about the darter before now. We’ve publicized the lake will return to normal this summer ... it’s going to hurt.”
Bobby Clue, executive director of Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, expresses concern.
“As a chamber of commerce, we are very concerned about any movement that might impede the progress of business. I would urge the Corps to reconsider this decision.”
Political powers in Washington, D.C. and Frankfort are flexing their muscles.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the Corps’ action “unacceptable.”
“The water level at Lake Cumberland has been and continues to be a major concern for many in the community, and (Wednesday’s) announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is unacceptable,” said McConnell. “The lower water level for the past few years has hurt the local economy, due to a decrease in the amount of visitors to the popular recreational area.