Rockland Harbor is seen in this September 2019 photo.

ROCKLAND, Maine ― It’s unclear how future development in Rockland Harbor ― including plans to expand a marina there ― may be hampered following a decision from city officials to expand the boundaries of a frequently used channel and add buffer zones around it.

The location of about a dozen boat moorings in the harbor’s South Channel could also be affected after councilors voted to more clearly define its coordinates.

“You have to clearly designate the channel so everyone knows where it is,” Harbormaster Matt Ripley said. “I felt that we needed to nail down the exact location of the start and the end.”

Yachting Solutions owner Bill Morong said Thursday that he is unsure just how the changes might hinder a proposed expansion of his marina.

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The project has been in the works for nearly two years and has caused significant debate surrounding the harbor’s layout. The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a study on the proposed expansion. If plans are cleared at the federal level, Morong said he expects for work to begin in the fall of 2020.

South Channel is a frequently used municipal path for vessels to navigate from the public landing, through mooring fields and then into the outer harbor.

The original coordinates for the channel have existed in the city’s code for more than 20 years, according to City Manager Tom Luttrell, but it’s unclear if the channel has ever been surveyed. According to the original coordinates, the 80-foot wide channel starts at the public landing and goes out 400 yards.

But the path has outgrown its designated boundaries over the years and the growth was never updated in the city’s code or on harbor maps.

“The channel has morphed out like 1,000 yards because we keep adding moorings out in these mooring fields,” Ripley said. “[The city code] should mirror where we are now.”

This summer, the city hired a surveyor to map the channel, and last week, city councilors approved a recommendation from Rockland Harbor Management Commission to alter South Channel’s coordinates.

A 20-foot buffer will be added on either side of the channel to bar any obstructions from being placed inside the buffer.

A citizen’s group strongly opposed relocating the channel to accommodate for the marina’s expansion and city officials agreed.

“Council agreed that we’re going to leave the channel where it is. It’s been there for ages,” Luttrell said.

The updated channel coordinates will also impact the location of about a dozen mooring balls, according to Ripley. Moorings are inspected nearly every year, so as the affected moorings are inspected ― which usually happens in the winter ― the moorings will be moved out of the channel.