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Tiber Marina opening put on hold pending licensing, remodeling


The opening of the Tiber Marina at Lake Elwell is being delayed as the new operators of the marina work on getting all their licensing and remodeling requirements completed.

"We're hoping to be open by the Fourth of July, but it might be open by the end of June," said Janice Oehlke of Brady, who was awarded the 10-year contract to manage the marina with her sister-in-law, Sarah Oehlke of Conrad.

The contract was first offered last summer by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoir. The bureau withdrew the original contract after some people complained about changes in the services offered, including building a new building to meet health and safety codes, banning the sale of cooked food and not offering cabin rentals.

After holding meetings to collect comments from people, the bureau revised the contract. Tom Sawatzke of the Bureau of Reclamation office in Billings said holding the public meetings delayed awarding the contract, but the chance to hear more comments and respond to them was worth it.

"Really, I think, this ties the bow around it," he said.

After the meetings, the bureau revised the contract to allow cabin rentals and cooked food to be sold once the restaurant is remodeled. The contract now allows the buildings to be renovated rather than replaced.

Nancy and Cliff Nelson had held the contract for six years on a year-by-year basis. She said the changes the bureau is requiring, even after revising the contract, are too expensive. She and her husband didn't bid on the new contract.

"It was just outrageous. The stuff they were requiring to get a 10-year contract was just crazy," Nelson said. "We wanted to have a long-term lease but there was no way we were going to put that kind of money into it."

She said she and her husband will now concentrate completely on their construction business, which was their primary source of income while they held the marina contract.

Sarah Oehlke said she thinks that she and her sister will be able to recoup their expenses during the 10-year contract.

They and the bureau are sharing the cost of replacing the floor in the store, which was the main health problem for the restaurant, Sawatzke said.

They also are renovating the mobile home that serves as the operator's home during the marina season, and Oehlke said they will move into the home for the summer as soon as it is done. Sarah Oehlke's husband, Herb, and Janice's husband, David, have been helping them work at the marina.

Oehlke said they will offer about the same menu as the restaurant previously had, and will add a deli.

The Oehlkes also plan to add some cabins. The previous cabins were owned by the Nelsons and have to be replaced. Janice Oehlke said they plan to add two cabins this summer, and possibly add some more by next summer.

She added that she and her sister-in-law also plan to offer some boats to rent, but that she didn't know if they would be available this summer or not.

Sawatzke said the bureau also did some work stabilizing the bank of Lake Elwell after erosion wore it down, and is doing some other maintenance and electrical work at the site.

Sarah Oehlke said the delays in getting the marina open this year - it's normally required to be open from Memorial Day to Labor Day - is because of the need to get licenses for their business and to get certification.

"As soon as we're licensed we have to be certified as new managers," she said.

Janice Oehlke said she Sarah Oehlke are retired, and they decided managing the marina would be a fun project.

Sarah Oehlke added that they plan to plant a few more trees and do some landscaping at the lake, as well as offering the restaurant, deli, rentals, and generally managing the site.

"We just want to make every effort of meeting the needs of the people using the facilities. We like to fish, like the people and like to cook, so it just fits within our interests," she said.


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