Work on extending the Charleston City Marina docks farther into the Ashley River most likely won't begin until next year.

Robbie Freeman, managing partner of the City Marina Co., said issues that still need to be completed include readjusting the path for boats traveling under the James Island Connector, and finalizing the boundaries of the new boat anchorage area.

Both projects require the involvement and approval of other government agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, which governs the waterway, and the S.C. Department of Transportation, which controls the connector. "It takes awhile," Freeman said.

The current path of travel for boat traffic under the connector bridge has to be shifted over by one section, to the left, or toward James Island/West Ashley when seen from the perspective of boats returning from the harbor. New protective fenders need to be added around the bridge supports.

Freeman earlier had estimated the marina expansion might have been able to start by this August.

Marina officials have been planning to expand the dock system outward for several years after some of the slips closest to the shoreline became heavily overrun by silt, making them unusable. Extending the dock system outward was considered less expensive and less environmentally disruptive than dredging, advocates said, because that would have meant tons of mud and silt having to be removed.

Some locals, however, tried to fight the expansion, contending that adding hundreds of feet of docks would be an eyesore. Also, opponents said bringing the dock system farther into the Ashley River would make the boating channel narrower, more dangerous, and take away some of the navigable space that is mutually shared by the boating public.

A legal fight ensued but ultimately the project received its necessary permits. The marina is owned by the city of Charleston, which has leased it to the Beach Co.

The current plan calls for extending the docks 140 feet more into the river, creating about 630 feet of new dock space. The estimated total cost of the project is about $5 million. Officials recently secured a $1.5 million federal grant to help out.

Freeman said the economic turnaround from the 2008-era recession also has helped the boating industry recover, increasing demand for marina use.

"Fortunately, the market is finally coming back," he said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.