PULASKI CO. Ky. (WKYT) - JD Hamilton is optimistic about the future for his business, Lee’s Ford Marina.
“It’s the beginning of a recovery for us,” Hamilton said from his marina, in Pulaski County.
6 years ago a leak at Wolf Creek Dam launched a massive repair job that took 40 feet of water out of the lake that attracts 5 million visitors a year, that’s more than the Grand Canyon. Water was taken out of the lake to take pressure off the mile long dam that's located in Russell County.
It wasn’t just water that left the lake, visitors stayed away, and profits dried up.
“6 of 11 marinas were either in bankruptcy or out of business,” Hamilton said of the financial disaster the lake-lowering brought for some.
Hamilton himself spent hundreds of thousands moving his marina to higher water. With 800 slips, he says it was like moving a small city.
“They all have sewer, water, cable, electricity, anchoring systems,” he said.
Hamilton says he’ll spend that amount again moving the business once more this summer.
Businesses do not expect an immediate return to normalcy. The lake is expected to be brought back up 20 feet this year, 20 more feet next year.
Some businesses said they lost roughly half their traffic since the lake was lowered.
“Some have, especially those that depend on tourism dollars. They’re the ones that will see an immediate impact in a positive way,” said Bobby Clue with the Somerset-Pulaski Co. Chamber of Commerce.
It’s actually the second time a leak has been fixed at Wolf Creek but experts don’t think it’s a project they will ever see again.
“The fix in place, I believe is a 100 year fix. So I don’t think we’ll ever see the dam back down again,” said Hamilton.
Good news for those who both enjoy and depend on the lake for their livelihood.