Gulfport City Council got a sneak peek at Phase I of the Gulfport’s Marina Living Shoreline Improvement Project to redevelop the southern tip of Gulfport Marina.
Environmental Science Associates, a Tampa Bay environmental consulting firm, outlined the project at the Nov. 16 council meeting. Estimated to cost around $350,000, the first leg of the project is to make the marina resident friendly and block storm erosion. The City of Gulfport paid ESA $65,000 to plan the marina restoration and apply for funding grants.
The city hopes its Phase I price tag will be paid in part by a $175,000 Florida State Department of Environment Protection grant, along with local or matching funding, said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
“Like any project in our city, we had to leverage our dollars, looking for ways to fund the project,” O’Reilly said.
The DEP will make its grant decision by July 1, he said.
When completed, the Gulfport Marina project will improve marina public access.
“It’s to give the public the natural experience like at Clam Bayou, without impacting the environmental aspects of it – to create public access,” O’Reilly said. “And at the same time, improve this area to provide better protection for the south base of the (Gulfport) marina.”
It will also reduce ongoing ecological erosion to the marina.
“The protection of Gulfport Marina is slowly eroding away due to wave energy,” said Thomas F. Ries, Southeast Biological Services and Restoration director/vice president of ESA at the Nov. 16 council meeting.
Phase I, if funded and approved, would install two tiers of oysters in front of the marina peninsula to strengthen its shoreline barrier against erosion.
The first tier of “oyster domes” are concrete cones filled with oysters planted in bay water just off the peninsula. A second tier of oyster-filled burlap bags – to range from 65 lbs. to 400 lbs. each – would be planted in the peninsula sand. Together, the oyster tiers create a natural barrier layer that would protect the peninsula against a Category 2 hurricane, Ries said.
The oyster tiers create a natural barrier layer that would protect the peninsula against a Category 2 hurricane.
The city’s Living Shoreline project was first proposed during Gulfport’s 2018-19 budget talks, but tabled for lack of funding. The city sought state funding two years later, applying for an estimated $800,000 grant from the Florida State Legislature. While the house bill passed by committee, it was subsequently eliminated by a line-item veto by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“The governor does have the ability to line-item veto things, and he elected, two days before signing the budget, to veto the project,” O’Reilly said.
Phase I would be completed within a year of approval and funding, according to city documents.
Phase II of Gulfport’s Living Shoreline would build the upland portion of the project, O’Reilly said.
Phase II was initially expected to cost around $800,000, based upon an estimate provided by Clearwater-based construction management firm Cardno Construction.
O’Reilly said that figure is likely to be scaled back.
Phase II is to provide the marina a pedestrian walkway, a small scenic overlook docks and piers similar to Clam Bayou, and educational signage along the way.
“It’s to structurally improve the upland area, so to protect what’s there, while ensuring the environmental aspect – birds and other wildlife – of it,” O’Reilly said. “It’s to improve the resiliency and the aesthetic of it.”
Gulfport has also started talking with Boca Ciega Yacht Club officials about the city’s plans to improve a dry storage area adjacent to the club.
“We would make it a permeable surface and improve the aesthetics and the security aspects of it, while attempting to create more public access to the water,” O’Reilly said.
The City has contacted Boca Ciega Yacht Club officials to discuss how the club may be impacted by the marina restoration plans, O’Reilly said. The club, he explained, may need to move some its boats as part of the Phase II to upgrade the upland portion of the park.
“When (the) lease issues are resolved, it will likely include an area that they may utilize,” O’Reilly said.
“We’ve been in regular contact with club leaders, and that the planned (marina) changes “may require relocating some of their equipment and their vessels,” O’Reilly said.
Added O’Reilly: “We’ve got two or three issues that need to be resolved, and yes the crane they utilize is one of them, but our goal is to open up as much to public access, and at the same time allow the club to maintain its presence in that area to the east side.”