Update: KF marina accepts one-year contract extension
The Kettle Falls Marina will be open this year, but it comes at a cost.
Edward and Carol Wimberly have owned and operated Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. for over 29 years, working as concessioners at the marina for the National Park Service (NPS).
When the NPS announced on Feb. 2 that the marina would close April 30, it shocked the Wimberlys, who had submitted a bid for contract renewal.
Last year the NPS solicited for a new 10-year contract. The new proposal called for improvements in safety, and a way to “increase the variety of services offered to visitors.”
Bids were accepted from May 4 through Aug. 30, 2016.
According to the NPS, the effort to select a contractor to continue operations was cancelled to give park officials more time to evaluate visitor services in the northern portion of Lake Roosevelt.
Since that decision was made, an outpouring of support from the community has swayed the NPS' decision.
On March 7 the NPS announced an offer to Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Inc. (LRVI) for a one-year contract extension. If accepted, LRVI will continue to operate the marina complex at Kettle Falls through April 30, 2018.
According to NPS officials, this offer was made after listening to community and visitor concerns after the marina's closure was announced.
“It's our hope Lake Roosevelt Vacations will accept this extension offer so reservation holders unaware of a potential closure can enjoy their planned vacation on the lake,” said NPS Superintendent Dan Foster. “We are committed over the long term to ensuring Kettle Falls. the launch ramp and campgrounds continue to be popular summer recreation destinations.”
The stipulation includes mandatory improvements to the marina, requiring the Wimberlys’ to correct previously identified safety and environmental concerns during the one year extension.
The NPS asked the concessionaire to correct “previously identified deficiencies” that pose risks to the environment and visitor safety during the extension period.
According to Ed Wimberly, at first glance, the requests seemed expensive, and only there to “prolong their agony” because a renewed contract is not guaranteed. But after carefully going through the paper work, the Wimberlys discovered that most of the required improvements had already been accomplished, according to Kevin Garden, the Wimberlys’ attorney.
Laura Joss, NPS Regional Director of the Pacific West Region, requested that decking boards on docks and gangways be secured with nails, and called for a replacement of all rotten or warped boards. She also asked that all floatation devices on the gangways be replaced to create level walking surfaces on moorage docks, to have the slip pedestals secured to the dock decking and to have leaks repaired. Joss also requested an updated Environmental and Risk Management Plan.
All repairs must be completed before June 1, when operations are slated to begin. If not, LRVI may have a delayed opening until the deficiencies are corrected.
In addition to the repairs, LRVI is required to complete all obligations under the existing contract.
“We're closed right now because it's winter time,” noted Wimberly. “We have to wait until the birds are chirping, then we can go in and do all the repairs.
“There's nothing there that we refuse to do.”
According to Garden, because most of the requirements have already been met, it's only a matter of properly documenting these repairs for the NPS.
According to the NPS, the agency is working on a long-term strategy for visitor services at Kettle Falls. This includes maintaining the Park Service campground, boat ramp, parking, restrooms, hiking trails and day use areas.
In 2016, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area had a visitor use survey conducted. They are currently waiting for the results. The survey asked visitors what they wanted to do while at the lake, what they actually did and what they were not able to do.
“We could have done a better job informing the community and stakeholders of the opportunities and challenges surrounding this contract,” said Foster. “Moving forward, we will better engage interested parties, beginning with a town hall meeting we will be holding on this issue this spring.”
Federal law requires the agency to only offer business opportunities that would provide an operator a reasonable opportunity to make a profit.
In order to protect personal and business information, as well as to not distort the future competitive bid environment, the NPS does not release information on bids. Because the solicitation process was canceled, and because the one offered also publicly stated they made an offer, the NPS made it public that only one bid was received.
To minimize the financial outlay and make the contract financially viable for a potential operator, the contract prospectus scaled down required services that included fuel sales, slip rentals, store and sewage pump out and made current requirements that the concessionaire offer houseboat rentals optional to attract more offers.
For more information on why the NPS turned down the bid, visit: https://www.nps.gov/laro/planyourvisit/kettle-falls-marina.htm/.
“I am glad the National Park Service has extended the Kettle Falls Marina contract for an additional year,” said Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05).
McMorris Rodgers lent her voice of concern to the community when the closure was first announced by writing a letter to NPS Director Joss. Now the Congresswoman is working with the Wimberly family and the Department of Interior to find an equitable solution for a long-term contract.
“The initial decision to shut down the marina would prevent opportunities to enjoy the lake and posed serious security concerns by closing down the only refueling station for miles around,” McMorris Rodgers noted. “As we work to find a permanent solution at the Kettle Falls Marina, this extension will allow us to work with our local community on a long-term commitment to increase recreation opportunities while meeting the needs of our area’s emergency response teams.”
As for the Wimberly’s, they are very appreciative of the NPS‘ decision to extend the contract.
“We are very happy that the National Park Service has agreed to keep Kettle Falls Marina open this summer and allow us to continue serving our customers,” said Ed Wimberly. “We only hope that everyone does not have to go through this same situation come next winter.
“We are also very appreciative of the efforts by Rep. McMorris Rodgers, as well as the Stevens County commissioners who were instrumental in keeping the marina open for everyone.”