Cumberland Lake business owner excited to see water level rise

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - For seven years, the water's edge was just a little farther than it should've been at Lake Cumberland.

"It was a disaster, literally," answered JD Hamilton, who owns Lee's Ford Resort Marina.

In 2007, the lake level was dropped 40 feet to allow for major repairs to the Wolf Creek Dam. That drop in water left the rest of the lakeside community fighting to stay afloat.

"The lack of people coming to the lake because of the lower level really hurt the tourism," Representative Hal Rogers (R- Kentucky 5th) told WKYT.

"It was hard on everybody. I mean property prices went down, eight out of 11 marinas went out of business, a lot of people I know lost everything," described Hamilton, who wasn't spared from the economic nosedive as his marina declared bankruptcy.

"Success, here, was not growing the business. Success, by definition here, was just to survive," he said.

The only way back now, Hamilton explained, "It starts with water!"

Only it's what was in the water that slowed the progress out of the recession, when an endangered fish species was found.

"They found the two-and-a-half inch fish, called the 'Duskytail Darter,'" said Rep. Rogers.

"It just came out of nowhere," recalled Hamilton of the halt in progress.

"By law, it required them to do a biological study," continued Rogers.

The results finally came to a finish Hamilton said, "They concluded no threat to the species."

The levels are expected to be at the original mark this summer, but as Rep. Rogers said, "We've got to have enough rain to fill that lake, we may fill it with snow."

That time will come, for now it's just a time to rejoice as Hamilton celebrates his recovery from bankruptcy. It just so happened that this news feel on the same day he was set to meet his legal team. Hamilton found it fitting to add few anchovies to his martini, as a tribute to the fish that nearly sidelined his business farther.

"Cumberland is back!" he exclaimed.

As for the minnow species, some will be taken into the Wolf Creek Hatchery, according to Rep. Rogers, to be cared for and later returned into the lake system.

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