CAMA grants $500,000 for Sunset Beach boat ramp

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SUNSET BEACH—A Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) grant of $500,000 has been approved for a new public boat launch site in Sunset Beach.

“It’s good news, of course,” Sunset Beach Town Administrator Gary Parker said of the announcement made last week.

Parker said the grant will have to be used for what the town has proposed—acquisition for $1.9 million of a 1.2-acre mainland site next to the waterway where the ramp is to be built.

On June 30, Sunset Beach Town Council approved the amount to buy the two-tract site at 101 N. Sunset Blvd. from Sunset Bridge Partners.

An informal boat launch on the island causeway was closed June 16 to make way for the new $32 million high-rise bridge currently being built by English Construction Co.

CAMA, Parker said, has a category of funding called “acquisition grants.”

“This defrays some of the cost to the town for the land,” Parker said Monday.

In other words, “this knocks $500,000 off of that $1.9 million,” he said.

The town has to set a closing date to complete the land purchase agreement, which Parker anticipates will be around mid-September.

“As soon as we do that, then we’ll put in an application for a permit and start that process,” said Parker, estimating it will take about a year.

He said it is likely additional funding will come from the North Carolina Department of Wildlife, which has produced plans for the boat ramp.

The recently released drawing shows ingress and egress from Sunset Boulevard to a ramp parking site presently consisting of “at least” 36 spaces, Parker said.

Plans also call for an 86-foot concrete ramp to extend into the waterway from the stationary part of the existing pontoon bridge on the mainland.

Parker said he has had a “number of communications” with Gordon Myers, deputy director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The state department will pay for the design and construction of the boat launch, he said.

“We’ve known that from the start of the project, before we pursued purchase [of land],” Parker said. “We always knew wildlife was going to construct it. The town’s only cost in this whole project is whatever remains of the acquisition cost.”

Last week, it was announced the Wildlife Resources Commission has approved a $915,000 grant to buy property for parking elsewhere in Brunswick County, at the Sunset Harbor Boating Access Area.

Parker said construction of Sunset Beach’s new boat launch can’t begin untwil the new high-rise bridge under construction by the North Carolina Department of Transportation has been completed.

The completion date for the new 65-foot-tall span is November-December 2010.

“I would estimate that we’d be starting this construction in that winter 2010-2011,” Parker said of the future launch.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.