Boaters in Citrus County can look forward to a brand new ramp with plenty of parking and away from congestion.
Barring obstacles, construction of a Cross Florida Barge Canal boat ramp in northwest Citrus County could begin in late 2022 or early 2023, according to the county.
The project is being funded from a $12,660,000 pot of Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE) money, associated with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil-spill settlement.
The ramp should be ready for use in 2024-25.
County commissioners in May 2018 made the building of the boat ramp a top project in which to spend some of that BP money.
“That boat ramp is way ahead of schedule,” County Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan said.
County commissioners expect it to relieve the crowding and congestion at other boat ramps to the south in Crystal River and Homosassa.
The new 10-lane boat ramp will have 61 parking spaces (including 10 non-trailer spots), a restroom facility and six covered picnic tables. The ramp and facilities will sit on 8 acres-plus but there is room to expand to 18.55 acres.
Carnahan expects the ramp to be an economic driver for Citrus County. Given the lack of amenities in nearby Levy County, boaters who use the ramp will drive into Crystal River or Homosassa and patronize the restaurants and hotels, he said.
County Administrator Randy Oliver said the county has received proposals for the ramp design and is ready to award the contract to Cardno Engineering. With several offices in Florida, Cardno was the recommended firm.
Federal rules require another engineer to independently review the scope and develop the cost of the project. Orlando-based DRMP will handle that task.
Oliver said the Gulf Coast Council must approve the design documents before the county commissioners can award the contract. The county expects to do that in May.
The approval process could take three to four months.
The design, including preparing the bid documents, should take six to eight months and, at that time, the bid documents must be approved by federal officials which could take another three or four months.
Oliver expects the project to be bid in early 2022, work to start in late 2022 or early 2023, with completion in 2024-25.
The RESTORE council comprises five states directly affected by the oil spill — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Florida’s governing body is the Gulf Coast Consortium, and is made up of 23 Florida gulf counties, including Citrus.
Carnahan sits on the Consortium executive and regular board.
“I’m glad that we’ve got (this project) moving forward at a lot quicker pace,” Carnahan said.
County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said there is much private property near the barge canal where developers could build service-related businesses and other amenities to serve ramp users.
“I think (the ramp) is likely to spur some economic development up there,” Kinnard said.
“This is going to be a very large, high-volume ramp,” Kinnard said.
Kinnard said he would have preferred to build a ramp closer to Crystal River and Homosassa where folks could patronize area businesses and be closer to manatees. But given the crowding, the barge canal makes sense, he said.
“As soon as we get the green light to build this thing, I think the board will be pushing it hard to get the ball rolling,” Kinnard said.