With the award of a $35,190 coastal incentive grant, a controversial Liberty County marina will advance to the planning stages later this year.
The award, federal money funneled through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, requires a 100 percent county match and is only applicable to site planning on Cattle Hammock Road.
It does not include funds for construction, according to Susan Reeves, grants and contracts manager for the Coastal Resources Division.
“We’re very excited about this project,” Reeves added. The project was among 21 to receive $982,080 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
County Administrator Joey Brown said the county anticipates covering its portion through in-kind work.
According to the grant application, the Cattle Hammock Road site is approximately two acres with an estimated 278 feet of frontage on the North Newport River. Courier reports show the county purchased the land in 2008 for $1.5 million. At the time commissioners received pushback from nearby residents.
The debt incurred for the land purchase has been paid down but funds for construction are not currently available, Brown said.
“We have received indication that other grant funds for construction may be available, but we need to develop this plan as part of seeking those funds later,” he said.
Until the plan is developed and funding identified, it is not possible to establish a timeline.
Colonels Island resident John Henderson, who was then chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, carried many of the residents’ concerns to the BoC around the time of purchase.
“The people that live on Japonica, which is the road that intersects with Cattle Hammock Road, they were very unhappy about it.
There’s a lot of children right in that area, and if they have a marina, there’s going to be a lot of boat traffic in and out,” Henderson said.
He also thinks the bluff elevation and the length of the dock required to launch boats hurt the site’s feasibility as a marina, he said.
The county grant application cites a need for increased public access as the “current public access to water resources along the coastal areas of Liberty County is very limited.”
The grant lists accessibility limitations with the three publicly owned access points — a small boat ramp on Highway 17 at the South Newport River, a ramp along the Riceboro Creek and a DNR boat ramp at the Medway River in Sunbury — and two private access points — Yellow Bluff and Half Moon marinas.
According to the application, the proposed marina will have a new boat hoist that can accommodate boats up to 36 feet. It will extend about 400 feet into the river, with initial phases providing 368 feet of floating docks. The BoC has not decided the services that will be available.