Midway through construction, the Beaufort Downtown Marina mooring field project is being scaled back because of unexpected, costly problems.
American Underwater Contractors of Tequesta, Fla., began installing the anchors in April, but as the work moves closer to the center of the Beaufort River, the company is finding that there is not enough mud in some areas to provide a solid base.
"This stuff is just breaking up as he screws (anchors) in," city public works director Isiah Smalls told City Council on Tuesday.
The contractor recommends a bar anchor system be used instead of screws because they hold more firmly in the brittle phosphate and can be driven in instead of screwed, habormaster and marina manager Rick Griffin said.
But bar anchors cost more to sink, at $3,000 to $3,500 each, city officials say. In comparison, the screw-in anchors cost $1,250 each.
The original plan was for 46 moorings in the bend of the Beaufort River by the bluff along Bay Street.
Of those, 16 have been installed for transient boaters and are being paid for in part with a federal grant.
Griffin Enterprises, which manages the marina, was to pay to install the remaining anchors and mooring buoys. Costs, however, have risen about $6,000 more than Griffin expected to pay for the next 14 anchors and mooring buoys. That means 16 anchors that were part of the plan will not be sunk at this time, Smalls said.
"It's a situation that I'm not happy with, but it is where we are," Griffin said.
City Councilman Mike Sutton said he wants to see boats on the moorings soon. There is a perception that city officials and staff chased out boats that used to anchor for free in the area so it could install a for-pay mooring field that isn't being used or needed, he said.
Mooring placement has also changed because of riverbed conditions. The total number of moorings that can fit has dropped from 46 to 41, and the plan shows them stretching all the way across the river bend instead of stopping about halfway across.
Council members were upset the riverbed problems were discovered by the contractor, not by engineering firm Thomas & Hutton, which created the plans. Mayor Billy Keyserling asked why it wasn't known before, and Sutton wants to see if money spent on the plans can be recouped.
"I have to take responsibility for that," Griffin said. "We didn't do as much as we should have (in the engineering)."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.