Future options regarding Hannibal marina under consideration.

Before last weekend’s Polar Plunge fund-raiser at the Hannibal marina, Parks Department Director Andy Dorian said spectators would be allowed to watch from the docks. He indicated there was no potential hazard if someone fell in because the water around the slips is just a few inches deep.

The water depth issue in the marina will be taken care of at some point this spring. At the Jan. 15 City Council meeting, the Parks Department was given authority to strike an engineering services agreement with Klingner & Associates. That contract will represent the initial step toward having the marina dredged again.

Dredging last took place at the marina in the fall of 2011 when 8,403 cubic yards of silt and debris were removed. That work, which centered around the marina’s mouth, boat ramp and covered slip area, represented Phase One of a two-phase project that is necessary to restore the marina to its proper depth level of from 5 to 6 feet, according to Dorian.

The 2011 dredging cost the Parks Department $92,000. Dorian has set aside $170,000 in this year’s budget for dredging of the Nipper Park Marina.

Setting that much money aside for dredging is not something that Dorian does lightly.

“It’s a lot of money we could be using for playgrounds and the development of parks. Nobody wants to have to dredge. It’s unfortunate that we have this situation. We are frustrated by it, but it’s our responsibility to keep an eye on this thing,” he said.

After the upcoming dredging the Parks Department will be keeping a particularly close eye on the marina. Soundings performed annually by the Corps of Engineers and Parks Department will be monitored.

“It will give us an idea of how long it takes to fill this thing in,” said Dorian.

The amount of time between dredgings will be compared to marina usage during the same period.

“That will allow the Parks Department Board and (City) Council to make a better educated decision on whether the marina is being used quite often, or if that boating is way down and it’s just not something we need to do any more,” said Dorian, adding that a wide range of options regarding the marina are under consideration. “We want to make a very, very educated decision because once you make that decision it’s final. You can’t take the marina out and put it back in in three years.”

Regardless of what decision is made in the future regarding the marina, Dorian acknowledges it will be controversial.

“From our point of view, the Park Board’s point of view and the Council’s point of view, we’re going to make somebody upset either way,” he said. “If you take the marina out, you’re going to have a group of people very upset. If you leave it in you’ve got a group of people that are going to be very upset. They don’t feel that’s the best use of their taxpaying dollars.”

While the renting of boat slips has been down in recent years, there’s one part of the marina that remains popular with boaters.

“The boat ramp is very well used. Pleasure boaters, commercial fishermen, regular fishermen, the state Water Patrol, Fire Department, they all use that public boat ramp,” said Dorian. “We’re a river town. One way or another we have to have a public boat ramp in the community. I think most people would agree with that.”