Ross says: It’s time to fix the city marina!

Submitted by Chip Ross
Fernandina Beach City Commissioner
May 10, 2018

Commissioner Chip Ross

In Northeast Florida and Georgia there are two types of marinas. Those that are being dredged and those that are going to need to be dredged. The question of dredging to maintain a useable marina is not if the marina will need dredging, but how often and how much will be need to be dredged?

Mud currently engulfs the City of Fernandina Beach Marina. Two previous decisions primarily caused this predicament. The first decision occurred in the late 1980’s. The Marina was built with slips and walkways perpendicular to the flow of the river. These barriers to the water flow caused the water to slow and sediment to settle out and accumulate – similar to snow fences causing snow drifts. Although debated for years, no City Commission ever corrected the design error.

Secondly, two years ago the City Commissioners decided not to do maintenance dredging after Hurricane Matthew. The destruction of the attenuator [wave breaker and outer dock] drove the decision. As the water in the Marina became shallower, the rate of siltation accelerated. Because no dredging has been done in four years, the Marina is now inundated with mud with a limited amount of usable slips.

Five basic options exist to resolve the problem.

  1. Sell the Marina and let the buyer fix the problem.
  2. Do nothing.
  3. Dredge the current Marina at a cost of approximately a million dollars. The mud will likely reaccumulate in approximately two years.
  4. Abandon the Southern part of the Marina and build new piers to the North.
  5. Remove most of the existing docks, dredge, and then reconfigure the Southern Marina to correct the original design flaw, to decrease the frequency and amount of dredging.

Although advocated by some, I believe options 1 and 2 are unacceptable. The Marina is a key component of the economic and recreational hub of the Historic downtown.  The Marina creates a busy waterfront with a lively ambiance delighting thousands of residents and visitors year-round.

Dredging [Option 3], without changing the Marina design simply repeats the past. The definition of psychosis is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. I do not support this option.

Extending the piers to the North and abandoning the South [Option 4] has been advocated in the past. The grant funding for the northern expansion depends on providing transient slips only and would eliminate local use. Additionally, many of the grants that were obtained to build the Southern docks were dependent on agreeing to continue the use of the Southern Marina. Some of those grants would likely need to repaid. I do not believe this to be a viable option.

I believe the way forward is to:

  1. Repair the attenuator dock as is currently planned. This should be finished by the end of the year.
  2. Move the current long-term slip holders to the repaired attenuator dock.
  3. Remove the current docks that are perpendicular to the flow of water. [Estimated cost $130,000 +/-]
  4. Dredge the Marina. The amount of mud is estimated at 30,000 cubic yards which would coast approximately one million dollars.
  5. Reconstruct the marina using the 8-foot wide walkways that were removed, to form a 770-foot-long floating pier that would run parallel to the existing attenuator. This design would not substantially block the flow of water and should result in less frequent dredging needs. [Estimated cost $650,000 +/-] This plan has been vetted by ATM, an engineering firm hired by the City to recommend a solution.

The total estimated cost would be approximately 1.78 million dollars. The Florida Inland Navigational District will likely award the City $380,000 for dredging. The City would need to contribute $1,400,000. This money would need to be borrowed and paid back over time.

For years the City Commission has talked about providing a functional marina. All five current City Commissioners have previously promised to “fix” the Marina. If followed, option five could be completed by next Spring [2019].

This topic has been put on the 15 May 2018 City Commission meeting as a discussion item. The time has come to stop talking and fix the Marina.


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Penny Landregan
Penny Landregan (@guest_51175)
5 years ago

We have such a beautiful waterfront that has so many possibilities for use. It’s time to fix the problem and move forward in utilizing our downtown waterway better. I agree Chip, you tell ’em.

Frank Quigley
Frank Quigley(@frank-quigley)
5 years ago

“The Marina creates a busy waterfront with a lively ambiance delighting thousands of residents and visitors year-round.” – Bingo! That’s exactly right, and the economic value of an active marina cannot be measured only by slip fees, gas and other direct revenues (versus costs). Mr. Ross is right and the commission should get this done.

Trudie Richards
Trudie Richards (@guest_51178)
5 years ago

I’m with you Chip. And thank you for a succinct, thorough explanation.

Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_51180)
5 years ago

To my understanding, the city and it’s leaders have been been discussing the options to repair this Community Treasure or Marina for at least two decades. We had been close, remember Forward Fernandina.? We are a Tourist Destination, our future as an Island Community depends on it. Guests, by Land, Sea, or Air, love are Downtown Area, The Shops, Restaurants, The Natural Environment, The History, and our Beaches. But our Marina and it’s surrounds, not so much.! We have the property north of the existing marina to expand. We only need the will. Spend the Two Dollars extra to do it right. Make us a Proud of our Marina. Thanks Chip.

Sonny Bennett
Sonny Bennett (@guest_51182)
5 years ago

I totally agree !!

Alan Miller
Alan Miller (@guest_51183)
5 years ago

Option 1 shouldn’t be ignored outright. It may be the best option or the worst one, but some due diligence should be done to know what benefits/negatives could come from it and then decide if it makes sense to leave as a city owned asset and repair.

Frank Quigley
Frank Quigley(@frank-quigley)
5 years ago
Reply to  Alan Miller

Good point Mr. Miller. Another option might be to contract with a services company to run and – mainly – market the marina to boaters on a regional and national basis. Our family has been out on the water recently, and struck with two things – first the traffic of large boats in the inter-coastal moving north for the summer and, second, the high count of large boats in the FB harbor during Shrimp Fest. They anchored and rowed smaller boats into the marina for the event. A good marketing campaign on boating sites and publications wouldn’t be expensive and would sell the virtues of the marina but also the area’s attractions. FB marina is a great stop-over and a great destination in its own right. Just a thought.

Alan Miller
Alan Miller (@guest_51191)
5 years ago
Reply to  Frank Quigley

Yep, there’s probably a way to lease the marina so the city maintains a measure of control to prevent unwanted development/view corridors while turning over the day to Day operations to a private entity. But can’t know what’s right unless you explore all options, at least a little bit.

Nolan Barry
Nolan Barry (@guest_51221)
5 years ago
Reply to  Alan Miller

Alan and Frank,
I worked at the marina a few years ago. The scenario you are describing is how the marina is currently being run. None of the employees are paid by the city. They are employees of the Westrec Company. Westrec runs the day to day operations of the marina. They pay the employees salaries, and insurance. They run multiple marinas up and down the east coast of Florida and (at least 5 years ago) did a decent job of marketing to people traveling the ICW. I don’t know how what the financials between the city and Westrec looked like but the city commission had made the decision to have them run the marina some time in 2011 or 2012 I believe? (I came in after the switch was made).
It’s sad to see its fallen on hard times after the hurricanes. There were a lot of great people who made their livelihood out of that location, marina employees, fishing guides, nature tours. Whether it’s through a private company or a city run project it would be great to see it brought back to full capacity again,

Captain Magic
Captain Magic (@guest_51209)
5 years ago
Reply to  Frank Quigley

Call Bob Allison!
He knows that [email protected]

chip ross
chip ross (@guest_51193)
5 years ago

Westrec, one of the world’s largest operators of marinas provides professional management services to the City of Fernandina Beach Marina. The challenge is not marketing the marina but having a marina to market. The above plan should provide that marina.

Alan Miller
Alan Miller (@guest_51205)
5 years ago
Reply to  chip ross

I think what deserves exploration, to see if it even makes sense, before you commit to a path forward is if there is a private entity out there willing to take ownership, not management, and in turn fund the expensive dredging that is needed (in hopes of higher profits), even under a rearranged dock alignment. If a reputable partner out there exists, in that circumstance it could make sense to explore alternatives. Again, not saying it’s right or wrong but deserves at least a little due diligence before committing to other major changes.

Margo Story
Margo Story (@guest_51198)
5 years ago

I’m w/ Chip Ross, let’s not sit on our buns any longer…….get it done!!

Ben Lloyd
Ben Lloyd (@guest_51204)
5 years ago

Too many commissioners in the past have had the attitude of “My Way or No Way”. Chip Ross has stepped up and tried to look at things from a common sense viewpoint. It’s time for commissioners to unite on such an important topic. Get your hands out of your pockets and your head out of the sand. Time to Move Forward!!

Mark Silva.
Mark Silva. (@guest_51207)
5 years ago

Note there is no option to turn the south end of the marina into a huge park which everyone can enjoy. A vocal minority expects the city to continue to subsidize their businesses with no discussion of the interests of the majority of taxpayers. Public park.

Larry Myers
Larry Myers (@guest_51208)
5 years ago

Folks arrive on Amelia Island by Land, Air & Sea.
FDOT is upgrading A1A from 1-95 to Centre Street.
We are building a new state-of-the-art Airport Terminal to resemble a Corsair.

Now is the time to really properly fix/upgrade the City Marina & Waterfront. We now own the needed land North of the marina & Chip has identified some funding sources.
Let’s do it all & hit the ball out of the park

Dave Austin
Dave Austin (@guest_51231)
5 years ago

Agreed. Let’s stop discussing this important, overdue item and take action.