Lake Roosevelt houseboat operation still year-by-year


Dakota Columbia will operate the Seven Bays and Keller Ferry houseboat concessions for another year, the National Park Service confirmed Tuesday.

The agreement was reached after an attempt to attract proposals for a 10-year contract failed.

There are good reasons why no one offered a valid proposal to operate houseboats at Seven Bays and Keller Ferry, a man familiar with the two businesses asserted.

Elmer Little, a former employee of Seven Bays, contended in a letter to the Davenport Times and to The Star, that anyone seeking the contract to operate the two houseboat concessions is forced to purchase older houseboats, supplies and fuel, all at inflated prices.

“I do agree that having to purchase the houseboats and other assets is a sticking point for some people,” Superintendent Debbie Bird of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area stated Tuesday.

The NPS prospectus required that any person or group submitting a bid proposal had to buy out the assets and houseboats of the present operator. That comes to around $3 million, Little stated in his letter.

Bird said that the assets claimed are carefully monitored and must be agreed upon by the NPS.

“The value of the houseboats is arrived at by an independent appraiser,” Bird said. That part of Dakota Columbia’s assets comes to about $2.3 million. None of the eight houseboats listed are new, and are still being depreciated.

Dakota Columbia has operated the two sites on one-year rollover agreements.

Owner Lyle Parker, operator at Seven Bays and Keller Ferry, is traveling in Mexico and couldn’t be reached for comment.

“This agreement will guarantee houseboat operations on the lower part of the lake and allow the public to make reservations for summer activity,” Bird stated.

Bird also said her office was going to ask the NPS to allow future contracts for 15 years instead of 10, to allow more time to amortize out large purchases, such as houseboats. “That will be up to some of our offices higher up,” she said.

Another hangup on the whole transaction is that the NPS proposal requires a successful bidder to include a $225,000 down payment on houseboats for the Keller operation, Little asserted in his letter. Marsha Buchanan, who handles concession leases for the local NPS district said that requirement came out of a feasibility study on how much money it would take to satisfy a loan for houseboats.

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Also among the requirements in the prospectus is a list of deferred maintenance projects that is estimated at $11,000, Buchanan stated.

Little said the $3 million asset list scared off some interested potential bidders.

One person did state an interest in making a proposal but didn’t want to go public with it because he might want to submit a proposal at a later date.

Bird said that when all the paperwork is complete she would like to meet with Little and the two newspapers to explain the processes of the NPS in such bidding practices.


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