Just a few weeks ago, it looked as if the Charleston City Marina expansion were on hold, possibly for years.

Then came an email from Washington, D.C., with a seven-figure number in it.

Marina officials say a nearly $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service means construction of the Ashley River project could begin within the next 12 months or so.

That’s a complete turnaround from early August, when predictions were that the $5 million expansion would have to stay on the shelf long-term, or until the economy and the boating industry experienced a measurable recovery.

“That’s the best email I’ve had” in a long time, Robbie Freeman, managing partner of the City Marina Co., said Tuesday.

The grant comes from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife fund designated to support recreational boating through the Boating Infrastructure Grant program. The stated goal, officials said, is to promote water access and opportunities for recreational anglers and boaters, including through construction projects.

Boat buyers and industry manufacturers support the program through excise and other taxes placed on fishing and boating equipment, along with gasoline.

For years, Charleston marina officials have been looking to expand the site’s docks after some of the slips closest to land began to silt in, making them unusable. Building outward also was considered cheaper and less environmentally disruptive than resorting to dredging. That would have meant tons of muck would have to be removed from under the old slips. The marina is owned by the city of Charleston, which has leased it to the Beach Co.

Some locals tried to fight the expansion, contending that adding hundreds of feet of docks would be an eyesore.

Also, they said bringing the dock system farther out into the Ashley River would make the boating channel narrower and more dangerous. A legal fight ensued, but ultimately the project received its necessary state and federal permits.

The current plan is to take the docks out 140 feet farther into the Ashley, creating about 630 feet of new dock space.

The estimated total cost of the project is about $5 million. Freeman said one likely funding method is pursuing a bank construction loan, which would be repaid through normal marina operations.

The new slips also would be able to hold larger boats, sailboats and cruisers, in the 40- to 80-foot range, since the setup would be into deeper water. In all, approximately 50 new slips for transient boats will be added, the grant approval said.

The grant-approval email also says the expansion will include a visitor’s welcome center, utilities such as power, water and communications, and a high-speed, in-slip fueling infrastructure.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.