Rockland harbor on Tuesday Sept. 7, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine — With a public comment deadline looming, Rockland residents will have an opportunity next week to learn more about a recently revised marina expansion project slated for the city’s harbor.

The proposal from Safe Harbor Marinas — a national company that recently purchased a Rockland marina — is currently being reviewed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

When it was first proposed three years ago, the project caused concerns among residents who feared the expansion would negatively affect the harbor. Revisions to the plan have caused delays in the proposal moving forward. Aspects of the dredging permitting process have also caused delays.

The expansion plan has been scaled back since it was first proposed in 2018, but the City Council has heard from residents who still have concerns about it. To help bring residents up to speed on the revised proposal — and to offer a venue for questions and concerns — the City Council is hosting an informational meeting on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The Bureau of Parks and Lands is accepting public comments on the proposal through Friday.

“If we can have that informational discussion, maybe some folks will feel more confident in their position about it and still can make public comments through the 15th,” Rockland City Councilor Sarah Austin said this week.  

Since the current proposal is only dealing with water-related developments, city approval is not needed, but the council decided it would help to host an informational discussion on the project before the Bureau of Parks and Lands public comment deadline. A councilor suggested sending minutes of the discussion to the bureau, though it is not clear if the city will follow that suggestion.

City officials are working to have an engineer who is working for Safe Harbor Marinas on the project at Wednesday’s public forum, as well as the harbormaster and members of the city’s harbor management committee.

Safe Harbor Marinas acquired the Rockland marina last year, when it purchased the locally-owned company, Yachting Solutions. The marina expansion was originally proposed by Yachting Solutions in 2018, after the company received a $1 million in federal grant funding to expand the transient boater capacity in Rockland.

The project must be completed by fall of 2022 before the grant funding expires, according to the permit application that Safe Harbor submitted to the Bureau of Parks and Lands. Safe Harbor is looking to amend its existing submerged lands lease at the marina site in order to expand.

The project will include expansions of the existing float system to both the east and west of the marina’s main pier. An area of about 138,000 square feet of harbor bottom will need to be dredged for the project, according to the application.

The revised expansion plan will still at least double the marina’s dockage capacity, according to Bill Morong, a consultant for Safe Harbor Marinas, but it also requires less dredging than the earlier proposal. Other revisions include a planned pier extension that has been reduced by about 4,000 square-feet, and having larger boats dock either stern or bow toward the view rather than broadside, to help minimize impacts on the view of the harbor from shore.

“I was one of the people who objected fairly strongly to the original plan several years ago and it is important to acknowledge […] that it is a very different plan now. It’s a much better plan. It’s a plan that was significantly redesigned in response both to public feedback and also city council actions,” Rockland City Councilor Nate Davis said.

If the state approves the project, Safe Harbor Marinas hopes to begin dredging work next month and have the expansion completed by May 2022, according to the application.