MANATEE -- Many of Manatee County's eight boat ramps need repair but the millions needed to complete all construction isn't available.
Within the next two years, the county will be short of funds necessary to complete boat ramp maintenance, construction and waterway improvement projects, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Parks and Natural Resources Department.
To overcome the estimated $1.5 million deficit, Hunsicker suggested Tuesday at a Manatee County Commission workshop not to accept any new project funding for the next five years and keep recurring project costs fixed at fiscal 2015 or fiscal 2016 levels.
Commissioners may have to ask the West Coast Inland Navigation District for a loan to be repaid in fiscal year 2019 or 2020.
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At least three county boat ramps have already been repaired, but five more projects are anticipated to take place on other ramps within the next five years.
Officials acknowledged there are not enough public boat ramps for a waterfront community with the population of Manatee County.
"In the last 40 years, we have not kept up with the planning process to get new
boat ramps, but we are working with what we have," Hunsicker said.
"We are trying to correct and cure. Undoubtably, as we grow as a county, we will continue to look toward new ramps wherever they may be."
Most boat ramps will not be closed until construction begins.
Coquina North Boat Ramp will be closed Thursday, however, as a safety precaution even though repairs won't begin until December. County staff said they believe the infrastructure at the ramp is the same as when it was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
"We've been keeping a close eye on it, but I think we are at the point now," said Alan Lai Hipp, county marine resources manager.
A sign with the project map viewable from the road will notify boaters of the ramp closure, Hunsicker said.
Hunsicker added if they go "a little down the road ... they will be boating" at Coquina South Boat Ramp.
Ramp repairs were ordered based on need and not necessarily the most used facilities, Lai Hipp said.
"When we go into to do the renovations on the boat ramps, we like to be able to address everything at one time," he said.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.