Gloucester Daily Times
---- — To the editor:
Last week, an inflammatory Times editorial called for the disbanding of the Waterways Board.
It’s unfortunate that the editor, Mr. Lamont, prefers to lob bombs than to actually understand something so important to our community. And in my two years as chairman of this board, he has never once called me to discuss any of the issues.
So let’s set a few things straight. The current members of the Waterways Board are committed to providing greater capacity to accommodate visiting boaters, both cruisers and day-trippers. Moreover, there has been a cultural shift towards pro-action in the past 11 months, when the board got four new members. In that time the board has:
Put in motion the purchase of a launch, so visiting boaters have a gateway to access downtown within the DPA.
Begun work on a marketing strategy to welcome visiting boaters.
Funded design plans for expansion at Solomon Jacobs Landing to include bathrooms and showers, more transient dinghy tie-up and ADA access.
Funded a feasibility and marketing study for a transient marina.
Helped fund the Lanes Cove Fish Shack restoration.
With Seaport Council, funded a new facility for Sail GHS and the YMCA youth sailing programs.
Funded a mooring re-gridding study to determine if a floating marina would fit in the proposed area -- a first step that was missed by proponents, which slowed down the process.
Created stabilization funds for maintenance and repair of the commercial marinas and to enhance public access.
Acquired CPA eligibility approval for improvements to Hodgkins Cove and Head of Lobster Cove Public Landings to create better public access.
Directed the harbormaster’s office to aggressively enforce mooring regulations so all moorings are fully utilized.
Voted to increase patrols on the Annisquam River, directing the harbormaster to crack down on speeders.
The floating marina is a unique idea that may address the prohibition of recreational marinas in a DPA, and the board is indeed exploring that option. In the meantime, here is some information that may help the public understand what it could take.
Rough cost estimate for construction by the time all the utilities are connected, taking into account that municipal finance laws control the bid process, could be $2 million-plus of taxpayer dollars.
A competitive grant known as BIG could potentially provide some money. However, the BIG grant is solely for recreational transient boater access for boats 26 feet or larger. Meanwhile the State DEP requires that the utilities (electric and water) have a Chapter 91 permit, which in a DPA is only available for commercial locations. While it may be possible to meet both those conflicting requirements, it definitely complicates things.
The slips in this marina will be for limited-duration transient boater tie-up; there will be no seasonal slips available.
To fit the floating marina in the currently proposed spot, 60-plus moorings will have to be rearranged and moved closer together, requiring the use of short-scope mooring systems. These run between $2,000 & $5,000 each for gear and installation, for a total cost between $120,000 and $300,000. By ordinance, City Council will decide who will pay these costs.
There will be no launch service to help facilitate use in the nine-month off-season.
Quick estimates do indicate a positive operating balance between revenue and expenses, but these estimates are based on traditional shore-side marinas; there is no comparable data for a free-floating marina, as this would be the first of its kind in the Northeast.
The people who volunteer their time and effort to this board are working hard to do what’s right for the city. We’ve improved meeting efficiency with purposeful agendas, and last year, members agreed to increase meeting frequency by more than 40 percent in recognition that the pace was too slow.
I could not include all that the board is trying to accomplish in this space, but I hope it helps to clarify for interested citizens what we’ve been working on.
Chairman, Waterways Board