A plan to extend the Charleston City Marina by 150 feet into the Ashley River -- cutting the river's navigational channel in half as a result -- was protested by a handful of speakers but applauded by others at a public hearing Thursday.

The Beach Co., which leases and operates the city-owned marina, plans to spend $5 million to put some of its docks in deeper water and add about 40 slips.

Sediment has been building up on the land side of the marina, and officials there say dredging isn't feasible.

The plan would shift the Ashley River navigational channel, and reduce its width from 300 feet to 150 feet.

At the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management's hearing on the project, some saw it as a conflict between regular folks whose use of the river could suffer, and megayacht owners and the businesses that cater to them.

"If you expand 150 feet into the channel, it degrades the quality of the boating experience," said local resident and longtime boater Rik Dilgren. "When you have congestion, you need additional room to maneuver."

Lane Jeffries, who runs a yacht-management company, said the dock expansion is needed.

"There's plenty of room out there for everybody," he said.

The hearing packed a meeting room at the OCRM offices with more than 50 people.

More than a dozen spoke at the hearing, with the majority in favor of the project.

Among those in support were Ron Gift, who manages The Beach Company's City Boatyard on the Wando River; megayacht captain Eric Estelle, who is docked at the City Marina; City Marina business tenant Mike Altine; local resident Rob Robertson; and Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"It is imperative that we keep our marinas healthy and growing," Hill said.

Opponents included local residents David Coe, Ken King and Fred Kinard.

"It seems that economic interest has overcome public interest," Kinard said. He said more public access to the water is needed on the peninsula.

Several people affiliated with the Charleston Yacht Club, a neighbor of the City Marina, also spoke of the need for better access to the water.

They said the silt in the marina has made it difficult to launch boats from their access.

The Yacht Club members and officials stopped short of saying they opposed the expansion, but asked that plans include improved water access for their members.

Written comments on the plan will be accepted until March 5 at this address:

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

1362 McMillan Ave.

Suite 400

North Charleston, SC 29405

attn: Tess Trumbull.