An ambitious boat launch project for south Baldwin County is languishing on the back burner as questions about funding and what it will ultimately look like remain.
“We’re still waiting on the governor’s office,” District 4 County Commissioner Skip Gruber said. “I have not heard anything back from the state as to what their intentions are.”
The county entered a purchase agreement for 45 acres on the Intracoastal Waterway just south of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge for $7.5 million Oct. 2, with plans for launches, picnic areas and other amenities.
The first step is getting the governor to release money from oil and gas lease proceeds from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Securities Act to purchase and develop the land. The money is earmarked for projects in Mobile and Baldwin counties and Baldwin officials are awaiting word.
Another step is gathering support from local municipalities, but Orange Beach officials — the launch will be in the city limits — want to know what the final project will look like before committing.
“We don’t know what we are supporting,” Mayor Tony Kennon said. “We don’t support what they’ve proposed but we do support their effort to put a boat launch over there. We just need to know what size it is, the traffic flow and all the issues around the toll bridge. We just feel like we need to sit down and know what we are supporting.”
Councilman Jeff Silvers said the area is already crowded — The Wharf is across the canal and the recently revamped Bama Bayou project is across the road — and new and rejuvenated development there needs to be considered before he can offer support.
“Too many unanswered questions for me to commit on support until those questions are answered, especially with new redeveloped Bama Bayou project,” Silvers said. “Finally, it’s too far from Perdido Pass and the Gulf entryway.”
But the county, Gruber said, can’t really say what it will end up like until the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal officials review the plan and come back with their recommendations before giving the project a go-ahead.
“That’s going to be determined by what will be allowed by the Corps,” Gruber said. “We put these numbers out there because we looked at the piece of ground and what area we could put the slips in. We’re trying to fit it to where we get the maximum use out of that property. You ask for that and you get what you get.”
Initially, the project called for 12 to 14 launches with space to park 450 boat trailers and 50 additional parking spaces. Kennon believes that is too large for the area.
“That large of a launch is not needed,” Kennon said. “And it’s in the most dangerous part of the canal. That’s why I want to talk with them and see about downsizing it to an acceptable size. I think the council feels the same way.”
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