Ambitious plans for Orange Beach, Alabama, boat launch will likely be scaled down.

By John Mullen

July 23, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Progress is slow but slight progress is being made on the county’s effort to put a boat launch on property the county is purchasing on the Intracoastal Waterway just west of the toll bridge.

“The public comment period from ADEM has closed with no public comments,” Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Daphne, said. “They are in the process of issuing their final report which will basically be a clean bill of health. Once that happens the appraisal will be finalized which values the property at a value that is sufficient to move forward with the purchase with public money. The commission’s ready to vote on it.”

Elliott, a Baldwin County Commissioner when this project was first launched, said now his job is securing funds to buy the land and build the launch. He expects the state will OK the use of GOMESA money from oil and gas well leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Things are moving in the right direction and I have confidence that the governor will announce soon that she is considering this,” Elliott said. “We should have an answer and finalization in the very near future.”

The closing on the property still hasn’t happened and attorney Brad Hicks who is representing the county in the sale said at a July 18 Baldwin County Road and Bridge Meeting. The county agreed to pay $7.5 million for the 45-acre waterfront property in two parcel in May and will need about $5-10 million to build the launch and other amenities.

“We were hoping to have closing at the end of August but it’s looking now like it’s going to get into September,” Hicks said. “We’re going to have an extension on the purchase agreement that will move the inspection period to mid-August sometime. The next big commitment for the county is once the inspection expires the earnest money amount increases. Everything seems to be going in the right direction.”

Once the land is acquired, then the county can start the permitting process with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.

“I do not anticipate with the conservations we had early on any problems there,” Elliott said. “I say that because we brought all of those people into a meeting and said this is where we’re headed are there any problems anticipated. The answer was no and sufficiently no that everybody felt comfortable moving ahead with the purchase. You have to be the owner of the land in order to move forward with Corps approval process.”

When it was first announced in May of 2018 the plans called for about 450 parking spots for boat trailers and 12 to 14 boat launches. Also included in the original plan were an additional 50 parking spaces and some picnic pavilions.

The final product probably won’t look like that but County Commission Chairman Skip Gruber said in November the actual numbers of parking spaces and launches will probably emerge in the permitting process.

“That’s going to be determined by what will be allowed by the Corps,” Gruber said. “We put these numbers out there because we looked at the piece of ground and what area we could put the slips in. We’re trying to fit it to where we get the maximum use out of that property. You ask for that and you get what you get.”

Orange Beach officials will be working closely with the county to come up with the design of the launch and Mayor Tony Kennon said that first plan was a little ambitious.

“That large of a launch is not needed,” Kennon said. “And it’s in the most dangerous part of the canal. That’s why I want to talk with them and see about downsizing it to an acceptable size. I think the council feels the same way.”

Councilman Jeff Silvers said he felt the launch was too far away from Perdido Pass and access to the Gulf.

Long-time commissioner Gruber has been searching for property for a south Baldwin launch for years. The closing of the one at the old Wolf Bay Restaurant left a vacuum for those wanting to launch boats in the bay.

“There’s no place on Wolf Bay that you can launch a boat,” Gruber said. “We have one at Robinson’s Bayou and one at Lillian and that’s the extent of the county facilities.”

Gulf Shores was considering partnering with the state to put a launch on the north bank of the Intracoastal Waterway at a state facility just east of Saunders Yachtworks but is now awaiting the outcome of the effort by the county on this project. There is a ramp and boat basin with slips in place there for use by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Marine Division vessels.
The porposed boat launch is push-pin "S" on the map below... 

Boat Launches on the Alabama Florida Gulf Coast