BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (Nov. 17, 2021) – A Corps of Engineers team met with marina concessionaires today to provide updates on programs and processes and to build a better working relationship with open and transparent communication during the Kentucky and Tennessee Marina Associations’ 2021 Annual Meeting at the Sloan Convention Center.
Lt. Col. Nathan Branen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District deputy commander, said meeting with marina stakeholders is always a great opportunity to enhance the relationship between the Corps, stewards of public resources, and marinas, providers of services that the public enjoys when recreating at Corps lakes.
“It’s a chance for us to have a dialogue and to get feedback from you, and perhaps answer some of your questions,” Branen said at the onset of the meeting.
The Nashville District manages leases with 53 private marinas and four state park marinas at eight Corps-operated lakes in the Cumberland River Basin. The marinas attracted an estimated 3.5 million visitors in 2020, which in comparison is roughly the population of Los Angeles, California. The gross receipts were nearly $114 million, the best year to date.
“Nashville District has by far the largest gross receipts of any marina program in the country and that is due to your efforts to provide the highest quality recreation to our patrons,” said Marcus Hooper, Nashville District realty specialist. “As 2021 is ending the marinas are on track to meet or exceed those numbers. We are currently at a little over $109 million with several reports for the fourth quarter yet to be received.”
During the meeting the Nashville District team also provided an administrative fee policy update; promoted the Clean Marina Program, which encourages environmental stewardship; provided a climate change assessment; and gave an update on pending guidance on presidential executive orders including ones addressing federal minimum wages and COVID safety protocols, and how they could potentially pertain to marina operations.
Cathy Keith, chief of the Nashville District’s Real Estate Division’s Management and Disposal Branch, introduced her team that provides customer service at the district’s lakes, and highlighted that work assignments have been reorganized to facilitate more effective communication. She also announced that the district plans to begin using an electronic signature service in 2022, which will shorten the time it takes to execute official documents.
Following the presentation, several marina owners asked questions related to leases and the administrative-fee policy, highway improvements near marinas, and implementation of executive orders.
William “Bill” Gary IV, owner of Green Turtle Bay Marina at Lake Barkley, said the relationship between the Corps of Engineers and the concessionaires is meant to be a partnership. One of the goals and gains of the event is being able to hash out transparency issues such as fee structures and administrative fees.
Tom Allen, owner of Sunset Marina at Dale Hollow Lake and Marina at Rowena at Lake Cumberland, said he valued the opportunity to ask questions because he wanted more information about processes and rulemaking and executive orders.
“It’s a lot easier to understand someone’s intent face to face than over the phone or some other method,” Allen said. “We really appreciate as much interaction with the folks who regulate us as we can… we need more exposure to get things done, keep progress rolling at our businesses, and understand how regulatory agencies work.”
John Whelan, Tennessee Marina Association president, said the interaction between the Corps of Engineers representatives and his constituents is impactful because people have concerns, questions and issues, and provide comments to an agency that is helpful and is trying to partner with marina owners so they can provide the public needed resources and services.
“We need to address issues and concerns and have questions answered,” Whelan said. “This is an excellent forum for us to communicate face to face.”
Mike Abernathy, Nashville District Real Estate Division chief, pledged to keep marina stakeholders informed, especially regarding guidance about executive orders received through command channels.
“I hope that we adequately covered the topics that you were expecting here. Our goal is to keep you updated on changes to all of our policies and how they affect you and your marinas,” Abernathy said.
The Nashville District’s management of commercial concession leases is extensive. It includes collection of quarterly rental payments, annual financial reviews, reconciliation of financial statements, annual compliance inspections of property, coordination with financial institutions to support collateral assignments for increased capital and refinancing, assignment and assumption of leases upon the requested sale of a marina, supplemental agreements to existing leases for expansion of lease area or extension of term for financing purposes, approval letters for development within an existing lease area, and renewals of expiring leases.
“Nashville District Real Estate Division places priority on all commercial concession marina requests while balancing approximately 5,100 other outgrants to include other leases, easements, permits and licenses throughout the Cumberland River Basin,” Hooper said.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)