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Klinstiver: Alice Dean could be 'national attraction'

May 28, 2014 | 09:57 AM

Harrison County Commissioner Jim Klinstiver promoted the potential raising of the Alice Dean steamboat, combined with Morvin's Landing, as a national attraction at Thursday's joint meeting with the county council to discuss future riverboat "what if" spending.

Klinstiver said Clarence Merk Jr., the man behind the operation to raise the Civil War-era steamboat, plans to attend an upcoming commissioners' meeting to brief the board about the project.

Merk's team has located the sunken Civil War-era vessel, and the next step will be to dam the area with steel pylons before the process of bringing the steamboat to the surface begins.

Proper permitting still needs to be secured as well.

The pieces of the vessel will be taken to a yet-to-be-determined location for cleaning and restoration. The final resting place also is undetermined, but Merk hopes it could possibly be the focal point of a museum on either or both sides of the river.

Klinstiver said if Harrison County officials aren't careful, the only thing they'll get out of the project is exhaust fumes going across the bridge to Meade County.

The Alice Dean — about three times the size of the Belle of Louisville — was a 411-ton side-wheel, wooden-hulled packet steamer that served as a Union troop transport that carried forces from Memphis, Tenn., to join Gen. Ulysses Grant's siege of Vicksburg, Miss. Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan's raiders captured the Alice Dean while crossing from Brandenburg to Mauckport at Morvin's Landing. After fulfilling its use for Morgan, he burned the boat.

The discussion began when the group (the three commissioners and the financial planning committee of the county council) came upon $750,000 set aside for a boat ramp this year.

Klinstiver said he thought the boat ramp should be built in downtown Mauckport to help economically develop the old river town.

"The problem with downtown Mauckport is there's one board member that don't want it," Klinstiver said.

Klinstiver said a boat ramp in downtown Mauckport, the raised Alice Dean, or a portion of it, and the Morvin's Landing site would truly create a national attraction with all of the interest in the Civil War.

The "what if" analysis, spearheaded by Councilman Phil Smith, is not an approved budget but is an estimation of funds needed and potentially to be used for certain large projects within the next five years. It is used so the council can have a handle on upcoming spending and, hopefully, minimize surprises to the budget. It is used as a tool for making decisions on spending riverboat revenue.

"Riverboat spending is pretty tight," Councilman Gary Davis said. "We can't stand many more big projects, if any ... So, there's stuff we may or may not be able to do, such as the sheriff's request (for more officers) or others."

One project that doesn't have funding in the future spending analysis is the 4-H show barn.

"Do we build a building on someone else's property?" Davis asked.

Smith said he'd be in favor of creating a committee to look at the show-barn issue.

Projects with funding set aside include the Lanesville connector road, $845,540 this year and $2 million in each year following until 2019; bridge 58 on the Indian Creek Trail, $243,00 in 2015, $96,400 in 2017 and $676,703 in 2018; new highway department garage, $1 million this year and $1.5 million in 2015 and 2016; and the prosecution for death-penalty case (cases), $500,000 this year and $1.5 million next year.

The Lanesville connector road and Indian Creek Trail projects, if granted, will be partly reimbursed by federal funding.

Twitter: @rossschulz

  1. print email
    June 02, 2014 | 04:29 PM

    Wouldn't a ship that was burned, sank, and sitting on the bottom of a river for over 150 years be in pretty bad condition? How much would this cost?

  2. print email
    What could remain of the Alice Dean?
    June 03, 2014 | 12:54 PM

    I'd have to think whatever there is to salvage of the Alice Dean wouldn't be of any interest. Once Morgan crossed the river, they burned the wooden vessel and it sank. Soon after, it is recorded, that all the boilers and anything else that could be removed was taken from the site. Later, at the time the Mauckport/Brandenburg bridge was built, the construction company building the bridge moved a "Clam Shell" crane to the location and dug deep into the river bottom pulling up huge chunks of wood and other materials that were hauled away. Much of this wood is still in storage and much has been used to manufacture nick-nacks.

    After all this, what possibly could remain that would be worth any expenditure of County Funds?

    J.R. Eckart

    J.R. Eckart
  3. print email
    June 04, 2014 | 10:53 AM

    No county funds will be used to retrieve the ship, or what's left of it. I don't think anyone expects it to be anything more than a hull, hopefully a good portion still intact. Then the plan is to basically remake, or construct a replica of the ship keeping the original hull, or whatever else possible. That would be the attraction.

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