Hurricanes that destroy valuable waterfront property and erode marina seawalls and precious wetlands are the perpetual cycle of living and boating on the Gulf of Mexico. If there’s any benefit to getting hammered by a hurricane, it’s getting state and federal relief funds. Across the Gulf Coast, marinas and yards are using those monies to spearhead long needed improvements and renovations.
Port Eads Marina rebuilds
The facelift for Port Eads Marina in Plaquemines Parish, La., is nearing completion. Scheduled to open this summer, the renovated marina just south of Venice, La., will have 35 boat slips, a bait and ice shop and fuel station, as well as fishing camps, a weigh station and a boardwalk. The facility is largely self-contained with its own sewage treatment operation and water tank with structures approximately 11 feet above sea level.
Accessible only by boat, Port Eads is the last way station at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The marina was a popular fuel stop and harbor for cruisers, deep-water vessels, commercial fishermen, and oil industry vessels before Hurricane Katrina. Local officials hope the new facility will boost the economy, which has been ailing since Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Federal Emergency Management Agency originally denied Plaquemine Parish’s application to rebuild the marina but, after several appeals, FEMA ultimately provided $8.8 million for the renovation.
At press time, management options for the marina were still being debated by parish officials who are considering a nonprofit status that could run fishing tournaments to generate money as well as management by Plaquemines Parish.
Pass Christian Harbor expands
After being hammered by hurricanes Betsy, Camille and Katrina, the city of Pass Christian, Miss., is receiving $33 million in state and federal grant money to revitalize its harbor, creating 50 new jobs. The new 84,000-square-foot harbor will be heavily landscaped and accommodate more than 500 vessels with deeper channels, sea walls, massive parking lots, a comfort station and ice house.
The harbor has been dredged to 10 feet on the east and west side to accommodate boats up to 60 feet when completed next summer. The expansion will include cleaning, electrical and pumpout stations at each slip, and a special pier for charter boats.
“Our fishing boaters have tripled since Katrina, and we can’t get everyone into the existing harbor,” says Willie Davis, harbormaster. “We normally have to turn people down during shrimping season as there simply is not enough room with the current facility.”
New marina for Bay St. Louis
A $22 million harbor project – including $13.3 million in federal funding – will be completed in Bay St. Louis this summer. The State of Mississippi through the Mississippi Development Authority committed all funding to the project without any initial costs to the city.
In addition to 165 slips for boats 20 to 60 feet, the marina and waterfront improvements include a new municipal pier and fuel dock. Under its tidelands lease agreement with the state, the city can also develop and sublease space for restaurants, shops and other businesses.
The improvement project resulted from a three-year effort to locate a luxury marina in downtown Bay St. Louis to restore the city’s waterfront and recreational boating life to its pre-Katrina glory days. About 150,000 cubic yards of sand from dredging operations that began in November in the Mississippi Sound will be used to build a parking lot for the new harbor and for beach replenishment.
Panama City Marina facelift
Over $7 million in community redevelopment funds are appropriated for improvements to the bulkhead and seawall at Panama City Marina, with another $5 million approved for a new family-friendly park scheduled for completion next spring.
The new marina park and civic plaza will include an outdoor amphitheatre, a splash pad, concession buildings, landscaped green space and a lighthouse. A spectacular glass building for parties is included, with space for a restaurant, should one be approved.
“The seawall is deteriorated in places,” says Bill Lloyd, harbormaster. “These repairs will get us ready for another 50 years.”
It’s all part of a facelift planned for Panama City’s downtown, honoring the city’s rich maritime and military history. No plans exist to expand the marina’s 240 wooden docks on concrete piers that currently accommodate transients up to 120 feet with a 10−foot draft.
“Everyone visits the beach in Panama City,” says William Whitson, spokesperson for Panama City. “Now there is a great reason to stay an extra day and explore downtown. Bring your family to the marina park destination in 2014.”
New St. Pete Pier
The St. Petersburg Pier built in 1926, and deteriorating badly, is being replaced by the New St. Pete Pier, including two waterfront restaurants. The $50 million project, designed by architect Michael Maltzan, calls for a circular pier with an integrated wave barrier that protects the interior of the marina from bay wind and waves.
The floating dock will accommodate a concession stand, bait shop and kayak rental facility. The marina’s northeast side includes a dedicated fishing area. No motorized watercraft will be allowed in the sheltered circular bay created by the loop of the new pier.