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Harbormaster Rick Griffin said work on a new mooring field at the Beaufort Downtown Marina could be under way within a few months, and boat owners anchored nearby need to consider what they will do with their boats after it opens.
That's because they'll have to pay the mooring fees or move.
Griffin gave City Council an update on the plans Tuesday. The state Ocean & Coastal Resource Management office has approved the application for the mooring field, he said, and he awaits only the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' final OK.
The city has a $100,000 federal grant for the field, and Griffin, who has a contract with the city to manage the downtown marina, is kicking in about $33,000. That should be enough to pay for 15 mooring balls and anchor spots, Griffin said.
Plans allow for as many as 49 moorings.
Placement of 10 to 15 mooring buoys is part of Griffin's lease agreement with the city to operate the marina.
The $133,000 will also be used to install new transformers on the dock, as the voltage levels for the current ones are too low for large boats, Griffin said. The transformers range in cost from about $10,000 for steel to $20,000 for stainless steel, which will last longer, he said.
Griffin said it would be cost-effective to sink as many anchor spots into the riverbed as possible at one time. About $12,000 in equipment and manpower would be saved if the contractor installing the anchorings doesn't have to return repeatedly.
"If we can get 15 mooring balls on hooks and 30 anchors in place, I think we're in a good place," Councilman Mike Sutton said.
Rent for the moorings has not been set, but the average monthly cost in other mooring fields is $250, or between $15 and $25 a day, Griffin said.
That means the boats anchored in the bend of the Beaufort River where the mooring field will go must move or pay to moor once the project is completed.
If they are outside the mooring field, however, boats are required only to have working lights and be properly registered, according to Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
"We have to think about the cost structure, and I'd hope it wouldn't make it so it was pushing people out," Sutton said.
The transition to a mooring field, however, could cause problems in the interim -- which council discussed Tuesday -- including dealing with abandoned boats.
Thomas said DNR will secure a boat, attempt to contact the owner and place a placard on it. After 40 days, anyone can claim it.
However, the legal process a person or entity, such as the city, must follow to take over ownership of such boats is lengthy and costly.
"It's a very expensive proposition once the city decides they're going to take ownership and get it out of there," Police Chief Matt Clancy said.