Beaufort officials want more authority to manage the boats that anchor near the city's Downtown Marina, in waters currently controlled by the state, by adding a mooring field.
"We basically have no control over who's in and out of there," said city harbormaster Rick Griffin. "We want to make sure we know who's out there, that they have insurance on the vessel and that they're not dumping illegally from their waste tanks."
Griffin pointed to a situation last weekend in which a boat anchored near the marina broke loose and drifted to the Woods Memorial Bridge. The marina had to tow the vessel, then find its owner.
The city has long dealt with such issues.
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Last year, after an abandoned 30-foot sailboat sank near the marina, City Council members directed city manager Scott Dadson to get the state's approval for a mooring field within city limits.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Ocean and Coastal Resource Management office would need to approve the plan.
Boaters would have to register with the marina and pay a fee to use space in the mooring field, Griffin said.
Dadson asked Griffin to work on the issue, Mayor Billy Keyserling said, and Griffin met last week with council to discuss two bids for work that could get the mooring field under way.
Applied Technology & Management, an environmental and marine engineering company, bid $40,000 to handle all aspects of planning, permitting and design, Griffin said.
Sligh Environmental Consultants Inc., working with engineering company Thomas & Hutton, submitted a $10,000 to $12,000 bid that would require more work by the city, such as finding a mooring field design and selecting a contractor to install the moorings, Griffin said.
The city has not yet awarded a contract, but Keyserling said council appeared to favor the smaller bid and agreed with Griffin that he and the city could perform some of the work.
During the meeting with Griffin, Dadson said he would look into how the city could cover potential costs.
Currently, 10 to 15 boats regularly anchor near the marina. That number sometimes swells to more than 40 during May, June, October and November, Griffin said.
Keyserling said he hopes the city can provide a mooring location for the larger cruise ships that pull up to the seawall at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The marina could provide a launch service for the cruise ships to ferry passengers to and from land.
"We talk about obstructed views; we talk about an unpleasant day in the park when that breeze is cut off" because of the ships, Keyserling said. "A mooring field would help that."
Follow reporter Juliann Vachon at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.