Boat racing looks to dispel myths about lake level

Goal to show there's plenty of recreation

bestep@herald-leader.comJune 4, 2010 

Powerful boats capable of reaching speeds in excess of 150 mph are scheduled to race on Lake Cumberland this weekend.

It's the second year of Offshore Super Series racing on the lake. One key goal remains the same as last year: demonstrating there's plenty of water in the giant reservoir.

"We're doing it to show there is recreation, there is water," said J.D. Hamilton, owner of Lee's Ford Marina Resort and president of the Lake Cumberland Association.

Lake-area businesses have been fighting a misperception about the lake being dry since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered the water level in early 2007.

The agency took that step to ease pressure on Wolf Creek Dam while repairing leaks. The agency has kept the lake surface level at 680 feet above sea level since 2007 — about 40 feet below the usual summer level.

"We've been fighting this 'there's no water in Lake Cumberland' silliness," said Bill Jasper, president of State Dock in Russell County.

For the record, at 680 feet, the lake is still a giant body of water covering about 38,000 surface acres, making it the third-largest lake in the state.

Most people have gotten used to the lower level. "It's becoming the new norm," Jasper said.

Work to repair the dam was scheduled to be done in 2012. In March, however, the corps suspended work in one area to evaluate apparent instability at that spot.

The suspension could push back the completion date on the project, which is expected to cost nearly $600 million.

If anyone still needs convincing, boats whipping across the water at 150 mph makes a pretty good statement that there's plenty of room to play on the lake, backers think.

In addition, organizers say the event brings in tourist dollars. They estimated more than 20,000 people attended the initial race event over three days in May 2009, creating an economic impact of about $1 million.

The budget to put on that event, which was held in Russell County, was about $170,000.

The Kentucky Sports Authority gave $25,000 to help sponsor the race last year and this year. Local governments and businesses in the lake region also put up money to sponsor the race.

This year's race, called the Lake Cumberland Grand Prix, is at the Waitsboro Recreation Area near Burnside, in Pulaski County.

The boats will race on a 4.8-mile course with seven turns. People can watch from the shore at Waitsboro or from boats.

There will be no parking at Waitsboro. Shuttles will run from other parking areas.

There will be events Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including a race village at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset and a free concert by Devon Allman, son of Southern rock legend Gregg Allman, in addition to the races.

John Brunner, director of operations for the Offshore Super Series, said he expects about 25 boats for the races on Lake Cumberland. The Lake Cumberland event is one of five the organization has scheduled this year.

For information on the schedule, tickets and parking, see http://www.lakecumberlandgrandprix.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service