Public-Private Partnership Brings “Mega” Benefits to Boating Community
In honor of National Fishing and Boating Week, we’re highlighting a place in South Carolina where public funds have been put to work supporting the boating community and environment.
Northbound drivers on the James Island Connector are lucky enough to enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the Charleston peninsula: a landscape of green salt marsh and gray-blue waters fans to the right; the iconic Ravenel Bridge hugs a low skyline punctuated by church spires; and in the foreground, a line of white hulls and masts attests to the city’s lively boating culture.
Those picturesque masts all belong to boats docked on the Ashley River at the Charleston City Marina. The largest of them are typically moored at the MegaDock, a 1,530-foot floating tie-up facilitiy. It’s the largest dock of its kind in the Southeast – and it’s a successful example of a high-impact, competitive grant program that turns excise taxes on fishing and boating equipment into tangible public boating and recreation benefits.
Every time you buy a fishing rod, tackle, a boat engine, or even motorboat fuel in the United States, a small percentage of what you pay goes directly back into efforts to keep our waterways clean and outdoor traditions alive. The money is administered by the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program and shared with the states, which award the funds for fishing, wildlife, and boating projects.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) manages two grant programs that divvy up funds for projects designed to decrease pollution in our waterways and improve boating access.
The Clean Vessel Act (CVA) program works to keep South Carolina’s waters clean by reducing the discharge of sewage from vessels – CVA provides funding for stations where boats can pump out their waste.
The Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program provides grant funding to construct, renovate, or maintain tie-up facilities and safe harbors for large recreational boats, of which there’s a shortage across much of the coast.
“The beauty of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, through which both of these programs are funded, is that it’s a user-pay, user-benefit system,” said Scott Meister, who coordinates both the BIG and CVA programs for South Carolina. “Boaters pay for the programs mostly through taxes on their fuel, providing direct benefits in terms of access to the water and participating facilities.”
The Charleston City Marina has benefitted from both programs throughout the years, winning six BIG grants to build, upgrade, and maintain the MegaDock since 2002 – as well as CVA grants that financed three pumpout boats and two pumpout stations.
“They’re one of our strongest partners in providing access opportunities for not only recreational boaters from coastal SC, but also the many temporary visiting boaters who are moving through the area on the Intracoastal Waterway,” said Meister.
The advantages of this kind of public-private partnership are mutual, according to the marina’s general manager, David Rogers.
“These programs have helped make the Charleston City Marina the city’s premier marina,” said Rogers. “We receive over 4,000 transient vessels per year, and the BIG program has helped create a destination with convenient transient docking, power and fueling. We’ve also become an environmental steward with the ability to keep thousands of gallons of waste out of the Ashley River system through the CVA program.”
You don’t have to be an avid boater to enjoy the benefits of these projects. One of the eligibility requirements for these programs is that the facilities funded must be open to the public – so you can stroll down the docks of BIG project facilities and appreciate South Carolina’s scenic waterways and boating culture first-hand.
Both publicly and privately owned marina facilities that are open to the public and located in South Carolina are eligible to apply for funding.