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Excavation underway at Kentucky's long-stalled, controversial Noah's Ark park site

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Workers are clearing land in northern Kentucky to build a long-stalled tourist attraction featuring Noah's Ark.

Ken Ham, head of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis, posted video of the excavation work on his Facebook page this week.

It is the first sign of large-scale construction activity at the site in Grant County since plans for the 510-foot long biblical ark were announced by Answers in Genesis in 2010. The project had been delayed when private donations did not keep pace with the construction timeline.

"They're doing all the site work now to get the spot ready," Michael Zovath, the project's co-ordinator, said Thursday. Zovath said heavy machinery will eventually push away about a million cubic feet of earth and rock to make way for the 200-acre ark site and parking lot.

Ham has said the ark will be built to the dimensions described in the Old Testament story. In it, Noah is summoned by God to build a wooden ark and gather pairs of all the world's animals to protect them from a worldwide flood.

The story is presented as a true historical event at the ministry's Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati. The museum has attracted headlines and more than a million visitors for asserting that dinosaurs roamed the earth alongside humans about 6,000 years ago.

Zovath said the ark project calls for millions of feet of lumber to be delivered to the site by January, but a wood supplier has not yet been contracted for the project.

The project recently secured a stormwater permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that allowed construction to begin, Zovath said. Last month, a state tourism board gave preliminary approval for up to $18 million in tax rebates for the ark attraction.

The park has had many detractors, including evolution scientists and the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. TV personality and science educator Bill Nye took a swipe at ark story during a widely watched debate with Ham in February, saying not even modern shipbuilders were able to build an all-wooden ship of the size described in the Bible.

"Is it reasonable that Noah and his colleagues, his family, were able to maintain 14,000 animals and themselves and feed them, aboard a ship that was bigger than anyone's ever been able to build?" Nye said during the debate.

The attraction is scheduled to open by 2016.

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Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dylanlovan

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