As demand continues to rise for spots in Belfast's inner harbor, the city authorized officials to explore hiring an independent consultant to maximize the amount of available space for boats.

Harbormaster Kathy Pickering said an effort to lay out the inner harbor to achieve the maximum amount of space possible has been ongoing for the last couple of years, but it has not met with much success yet.

She said with the increasing demand on the limited amount of space available in the inner harbor, the issue is a significant one the city must address.

Pickering suggested there are options the city could pursue to address the space issue, such as moving away from using single point moorings and instead use moored floats. However, she acknowledged the expense of building a moored float would be an issue that needs to be taken into consideration.

Front Street Shipyard President J.B. Turner, who was present at the meeting, noted the cost of a moored float could be split between multiple owners. He said the 40-foot floats built by the shipyard cost about $12,000 and will last between 15 and 20 years.

Councilor Mary Mortier asked local fisherman and harbor committee member David Black about an idea he had regarding the use of a wave attenuator. A wave attenuator is a device that acts as sort of floating breakwater to reduce wave action.

Black said he envisioned the wave attenuator could be between 300- and 400-feet long with room for about 20 transient boats to tie up to it. He noted the most damaging winds come out of the southeast due to the orientation of Belfast's harbor.

Councilor Nancy Hamilton asked where the money would come from to pay the independent consultant. City Manager Joseph Slocum said the city wouldn't be spending any money at this time; he just needed authorization to begin looking for a consultant.

According to his manager's report, Slocum stated cost estimates and where the money will come from to fund the consultant would be brought before the council at a future date.

Councilors unanimously approved the request to begin looking at hiring an independent consultant to look at maximizing space in the inner harbor.

Front Street Shipyard mooring request

City Councilors also considered a request from Front Street Shipyard to continue to operate the five moored floats that were formerly operated by the Belfast Boatyard until the shipyard purchased the business.

City Manager Joseph Slocum explained that the shipyard did not buy the permits or the specific locations where the moored floats are now located in the inner harbor when the business purchased the Belfast Boatyard. However, he explained that the Army Corp of Engineers will continue to issue the permits for the moorings as long as city officials determine the continuation of the permits is in “the best interest of commerce.”

Jim Black, who is a member of the harbor advisory committee, said state law prohibits permits from being transferred unless it is to an immediate family member of a fisherman.

“It is not legal to transfer these permits,” he said.

In his manager's report, Slocum said the harbor advisory committee previously recommended the moored floats formerly owned and operated by the Belfast Boatyard that are now used by the shipyard should be moved next to two of the shipyard's moored floats near the Armistice Footbridge.

Slocum said the harbor committee also recommended relocating some of the deeper moored floats to the area where the former Belfast Boatyard's moored floats were located.

Without the council supporting the continued use of the permitted moored floats, Slocum said it would mean the shipyard would not be able to continue to maintain the permits and use the floats. He stated Pickering would have the authority to decide where the moorings will be located in the harbor if the council supports their continued use.

Councilors unanimously approved the request to allow the shipyard to continue to operate the floats.