A $1.1 million grant is to improve Mill Pond for commercial fishermen, and to help establish wooden boat bullding academy at martime museum

The approval last month of a $1.1 million grant from by the Triumph Gulf Coast Board is poised to kick start a 15-year, $4.5 million rejuvenation of the Port of Apalachicola the city hopes will yield dividends to both the commercial fishing and tourism sectors.

City Manager Ron Nalley told commissioners Tuesday evening that “term sheet negotiations” have begun between his office and Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that oversees the spending over the next 18 years of about $2 billion, recovered by Florida for economic damages from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, on the eight coastal Panhandle counties most affected by the spill.

On Sept. 12, after giving the Port of Apalachicola project an A score, the Triumph board approved the project, which earmarks funds for improvements to the Scipio Creek Basin boat yard, landing docks, and the historic Popham building the city owns, adjacent to the Apalachicola Maritime Museum, on Water Street.

This project is designed to improve facilities for the commercial shallow draft fishing fleet and to improve the boat building program associated with the museum.

The $1.1 million in Triumph money is about a quarter of the estimated $4.5 million cost to implement the Port of Apalachicola strategic plan over the next 15 years. Most of these estimated costs, about $2.6 million, will towards construction, with another $800,000 set for land acquisition, although nearly all the land currently being addressed, at Scipio Creek and the Popham building, are owned by the city, and thus no further matching funds are required, Nalley said.

Another $485,000 is estimated for the cost of reconstructing existing facilities, with $315,00 the price tag for design and engineering, and $212,000 for equipment.

Most of the remaining $3.35 million in costs are expected to come from yet-unnamed state and federal grants, with only about $215,000 forecast to come from city and/or county coffers.

Key to Triumph’s support of the project, and its requirement that will prevent a “clawback” of the money, is that the Port of Apalachicola meet at least one of three metrics forecast by the proposal.

Nalley said Triumph has tentatively agreed to set the job creation requirement at 15, with the other metrics, as yet unspecified, including the number of people who complete the boat building program, as well as the level of expansion of commercial dock leases at the Mill Pond.

The ambitious plan submitted to Triumph estimates it will lead to 76 new and retained non-construction jobs. This breaks down to 40 retained jobs in the fishing fleet, and 22 new ones, including four full-time and 12 part-time at the Maritime Museum, as well as four more at the boat basin and two at the boatyard. It also forecasts that 14 new jobs will be created as an indirect result of the project, including eight at Scipio Creek and six at the museum.

“The newly constructed boatyard will offer services which have not been available in Apalachicola for many years,” reads the score sheet outlined by Triumph. “The ability to haul, repair or reconfigure a commercial or recreational watercraft will substantially contribute to the marine-related moorings, goods and services available in the city.”

The plan calls for investing $567,000 to enhance Scipio Creek, also known as the Mill Pond, to serve independent shrimpers, crabbers and commercial fishermen working the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. “This public on-load/off-load/provisioning and repair facility would be the first and only public commercial docking and product offload facility in the region,” reads the score sheet.

Triumph wrote that the city envisions building a 20-ton ice making plant, as well as constructing an enclosed boat repair facility and sailboat mast lift, extending water and electrical service throughout the boat yard and installing six elevated overhead lighting poles.

“On and off-loading for local and transient fishermen and the availability of ice (independent of commercial fish houses) are extremely important to avoiding the decline of local shrimping/fishing, and to transient fishermen from South Florida or out-of-state,” reads the Triumph outline.

The Port of Apalachicola, which the plan says will be known as the Department of Marine Facilities, will contribute an estimated $500,000 annually to the city’s budget.

Another $533,000 of the $1.1 million award will go towards bringing the Popham Building, built in the 1930s, into usable condition. The building was purchased by a Florida Communities Trust grant and is owned by the city.

The concept is to do foundation replacement, interior improvements, plumbing and sprinkler systems installation and upgrades and other improvements. These changes will then facilitate the growth of the museum’s Wooden Boat Building Academy, which is projected to host monthly classes of 10 to 15 professional and amateur wooden boat builders.

The museum also proposed to expand its visitor exhibition facilities, provide ecotourism trips, and support community public assembly and marine topic schools and lectures.

“The goal is to reposition the Port of Apalachicola to accommodate a wide variety of watercraft, both private and commercial, as well as a range of boat construction and repair services,” said city engineering consultant Bill McCartney, who authored the proposal together with Augusta West, director of the Community Redevelopment Agency. “The project builds on the city’s existing assets and its long history as a port town.”