Work on the $22-million harbor and pier project in downtown Bay St. Louis is in its final stages, headed for completion in May. Boaters already are asking about slip rentals, said Mayor Les Fillingame, who expects the harbor to “create that destination by the sea that has never existed in Bay St. Louis.”
Buz Olsen, the city’s community development director, said, “At this point the harbor is about 70 percent complete.” The weather, even hurricane season, has not been a factor. “It’s really moving along. They work six days a week and they’re doing a good job keeping on schedule,” he said.
Olsen said the breakwater which frames the harbor on three sides, should be finished by the end of the month, if not before. The protective wall is 12 feet wide and runs about 1,200 feet out into the Sound and 700 feet parallel to the sand beach.
Olsen said much of the work in the last six months has been done with the an eye on potential damage that hurricane season could bring. That included concrete piling work on the piers.
Also with weather in mind, the harbor will have a portable comfort station that can be hauled out if a storm threatens. “It’s on wheels so you can hook it to a truck and haul it out,” Olsen said. The station will include an office, a shower and bathrooms plus small amenities such as an ice machine and a fuel station. A permanent comfort station might come later, Olsen said.
Gill’s Crane & Dozer Service of Slidell, the general contractor, started construction on the harbor in October 2012. Funding for the project comes from CDBG, FEMA, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and Tidelands funds.
The harbor will have 165 wet slips to accommodate boats ranging from 25 feet to 60 feet. Each slip will have electrical and water service connections. The Rutherford Pier replaces the one washed away by Katrina. It will serve as the northern boundary of the harbor basin.
Olsen said the seven members of the harbor commission have been crafting an operating ordinance since the group was appointed last month. They’re using rules and regulations for harbor operations in Pass Christian, Long Beach, Biloxi and Gulfport as examples, he said.
“It’s a good, well rounded group of people,” Olsen said. “They all bring something to the table.”
Fillingame said the downtown business community’s anticipation of the harbor’s impact is “overwhelming.”
“The new traffic expected to be generated is very much on the agenda of people already in business and those who anticipate going into business. There’s a lot of buzz everywhere about what’s going on in downtown,” he said. “The harbor is another asset in place in Bay St. Louis’s resurrection.”
Fillingame likes to point out that the harbor is the only one on the Mississippi Coast that offers a direct connection to downtown. “Because of the uniqueness of the harbor, we are going to be able to create that destination by the sea that has never existed in Bay St. Louis,” he said.
He predicts the harbor will be “an extremely popular destination for the boating community, mainly from the Pontchartrain Basin and from Mobile.” Vessels will range from party barges to “all types of craft that will bring people from far and wide.”
Fillingame expects most harbor policies to be in place by the end of the year and marketing the destination will begin ahead of the opening. “People want to go ahead and book right now,” he said.