The Madison Regatta had what President Crystal McHargue termed a "very productive meeting" with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about debris problems that have plagued the race recently.

McHargue, other Regatta officials and local legislators met with Corps officials last week to hammer out a solution to the recent problems. Also at the meeting were State Sen. Jim Lewis, D-Charlestown, State Rep. Dave Cheatham, D-North Vernon, Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong and representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

"It was a very productive meeting and the Corps has agreed to do everything in its power to not let this happen again," McHargue said. "The governor has also pledged his support. I tell you what, I am much more confident right now than I was a month ago."

Massive debris problems have played havoc with each of the last three Madison Regattas, causing cancellations and postponements as well as damage to race boats.

For many, the root of the problem could be traced to the two Corps of Engineers-controlled dams, Markland upriver past Vevay and McAlpine downriver in Louisville. But McHargue said the main culprit is the Kentucky River, which flows into the Ohio River at Carrollton, 15 miles above Madison.

Like the Ohio, the Kentucky River has a series of dams and locks all the way up its system past Lexington. But unlike the Ohio, the Kentucky River's dams are spillways, and the flow of water cannot be controlled. When water rises on the Kentucky, it simply spills over the dams, raises the water level in the Ohio and picks up debris along the banks.

To make matters worse, both Markland and McAlpine dams must keep their pool stages at a set level so as not to interfere with commercial traffic. As a result, when the Kentucky rises, there is little the Ohio dams can do to lower the levels.

That's not to say that there are no solutions. McHargue said the lockmasters at both Markland and McAlpine have committed to help the Regatta in any way possible.

"We're all on the same page and we all want answers," McHargue said. "The (Ohio) river has to stay at a set level and the dams can't just open and close at will. But there's some things that we can do."

Among the solutions could be a net system that is placed upriver to catch debris. Another could be adding more search boats upriver to sweep for debris.

"There are nets that are used in lakes for boat races and that is certainly an option," McHargue said. "The governor has also committed to getting us more boats to sweep the river."

In the end, the best option might be pure luck. While the Ohio River's stage level is directly affected by weather in the east, the Kentucky River's level is affected by weather to the south. Last year, massive storms in central Kentucky on the Friday of the race brought the debris on Sunday.

"We hope everybody will come out and cheer on the national champion on her home course," McHargue said. "We have done everything we can to ensure that this problem will not happen again."

In other news:

• The Regatta office on Vaughn Drive is now open from 4-6 p.m. daily. Beginning June 1, the office will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Elections for the organization were held earlier this week, but the Regatta has since been forced to remove one board member from office. All officers will remain the same.

• The Regatta is still accepting applications for all four of its scholarship pageants - Little Miss, Miss Pre-Teen, Miss Teen and Miss Madison Regatta. All four can be picked up at the Regatta office.

• Applications for event staff are being accepted at the Regatta office.

• The Regatta will be taking reservations for tarp spaces in the coming weeks. This year, the tarp area has been expanded to the east as far as St. Michael's Avenue.

• Sponsorships are still available. Contact the Regatta at (812) 265-5000 if interested.