THE long-awaited $1 million Port Albert boat ramp upgrade will go ahead after Wellington Shire councillors moved to award a contract for the removal of the existing northern jetty, the building of an additional ramp and construction of new floating pontoons complete with lay-bys and pedestrian access.
Port Albert has been designated as a Regional Boating Facility in the Wellington Shire Council Boating Facilities Strategic Plan.
It is one of Victoria's oldest sea ports, and currently has a two-lane boat ramp, a fixed jetty and a floating pontoon.
The upgrade works include the demolition of the fixed jetty, which council officers reported to be "nearing the end of its useful life", and replacing it with a floating pontoon configured with a lay-by angled away from the ramp to increase the boat parking area, which will allow better access to the ramp while boats are tied up when vehicles are parked or retrieved.
Works will include improved pedestrian access to the existing floating pontoon and the addition of an angled lay-by as described above.
Improvements will also be made to lighting in the area of the ramp, fish cleaning tables and the boat wash-down area.
The boat ramp, which is adjacent to the Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park, is well utilised over warmer months, and at peak times there are often significant delays and long queues of people launching and retrieving boats.
A council report found the existing jetty, adjacent to the boat ramp, was "past it's effective life span".
A council survey and feedback from a drop-in session showed majority support for the upgrade, with more than 72 per cent of people who completed the survey agreeing that there was a need for more parking for vehicles, recreational vehicles and boat trailers.
Wellington Shire councillor and Port Albert resident Gayle Maher said Port Albert attracted boaters from across the shire, the wider Gippsland region and Melbourne.
"As a first time councillor, I think this a really great announcement," she said.
"It's a really exciting proposal and development for Port Albert."
She said the upgrade was a great boost for Port Albert and would attract more visitors and tourists to the area.
Port Albert Progress Association president Kerrie Parkinson said the awarding of the contract was symbolic of positive change taking place in the town.
"Business owners in Port Albert are excited that this project is finally going ahead because it will bring enormous benefits to our town," Ms Parkinson said.
"We are looking forward to an increase in recreational fishing and an increase in revenue for all the businesses in Port Albert as a result.
"There will be far reaching benefits for everyone and it will result in some major changes in our beautiful town."
Not everybody has been happy with the upgrade, with the former president of the Port Albert Progress Association, Michael Hobson, complaining at last month's council meeting that there was not appropriate consultation.
In August, council's acting community and culture general manager Sharon Houlihan said several members of the Port Albert community said they felt they had not been consulted, and did not believe that the priorities included in the community plan developed by Port Albert Progress Association represented the views of the Port Albert community.
Council received funding from the state government's Boating Safety and Facilities Program of $640,000 for the project, with the shire contributing an additional $160,000.
The design includes $200,000 of traffic and parking improvements.
Completion of the whole project is expected during the next 12 months.
The contract for the work has been awarded to Sydney-based company SMC Marine, which also built the Anderson Rd jetty in Cowes.
Works will be planned to minimise disruption to users of the facilities and maintain access to car parks and waterways at all times.