New Smyrna Beach city staff announced at a public meeting Aug. 5 they will recommend to the City Commission that the mooring field project be put on hold.

The commission was scheduled to discuss the issue at its Aug. 13 meeting.

The proposed mooring field was to be built just south of the South Causeway, east of the marked boating channel, where there are currently several boats at anchor.

In March, the commission voted to apply for a Florida Inland Navigation District grant to help pay for construction of a mooring field for up to 60 boats. At that time, it was estimated the total cost for the project would be $456,000, with the grant paying half of that. The city will know sometime in October whether it will receive that grant.

The funds included construction of the mooring field as well as a new pump out boat to empty the holding tanks of moored boats, a new dinghy dock at the city marina so boaters could come ashore there and an expansion of the restroom facilities at the marina, which would be available for use by boaters who stayed on a mooring ball. The city’s portion of the project was to be paid by marina revenues.

This is the second grant application for the project. Last year the city was awarded a grant under the same FIND program for design and permitting. The design was well-underway in June.

About three dozen people attended a public meeting June 14 where the proposed design was presented. Most were residents who live on the water along Riverside Drive or on Bouchelle Island. Many were opposed to it and had questions concerning liability, enforcement and what could be done about the derelict boats that were anchored in the area now.

The meeting last week was scheduled as a follow up to the June meeting, to answer residents’ questions and provide more information. About 140 people attended.

City staff explained the mooring field was a way to gain some control over the boats that anchor in the Intracoastal Waterway in the New Smyrna area. Staff suggested it may be beneficial to have a few different mooring fields where there was enough room and water depth. By doing that, they said it would be difficult for other boaters to find spots to anchor outside those areas. Because there would be certain requirements for boats to use the mooring field, this would cut down on derelict boats in the area.

City staff provided information on the environmental benefits of mooring fields and the safety aspects. When boaters anchor out, they disturb the riverbed each time their anchors are set and retrieved. Mooring balls are anchored into the riverbed, so once they are in place, boaters simply tie up to the floating buoy at the surface and the riverbed is not disturbed.

Moorings also are safer in that they are anchored deep within the river bottom. Boats may drag their anchors if they aren’t properly set or if conditions like a storm or strong currents occur, but moorings are much less likely to fail.

City staff said they were confident the mooring field would pay for itself. The city marina has a long waiting list and many on the list said they would be interested in putting their boat in the mooring field.

The city asked people at the meeting to participate in a poll. They were asked with the information presented at the meeting, if they supported the concept of creating strategically placed city mooring fields along the channel. It was the first time the city was using this polling system, which involved having people text their responses. Because it was the free version of the program, it only showed the first 100 responses.

Of those 100 responses, 44 voted “no,” 32 voted “yes” and 24 voted “undecided.” City staff said they are in the process of buying the polling program so they can use it at future meetings.

The commission will make a decision at the Aug. 13 meeting whether to follow through with the mooring field project. According to acting City Manager Khalid Resheidat, if they decide not to move forward with the project, the city will not get reimbursed for any design and permitting work already done.

Mr. Resheidat said he would notify FIND immediately if the city commission elects not to go ahead with the project so their grant application could be pulled from consideration.

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