Friday, September 11, 2015

The Harbor Report: Commission discusses Dunes settlement

By Len Bose
September 12, 2015

I attended this month's Harbor Commission meeting Wednesday night and I wanted to update you on what was on the agenda.
First up was Newport Beach Planning Manager Patrick Alford to review the terms of the Newport Dunes Settlement Agreement. This agreement outlines the operational characteristics of the launch ramp for trailered boats. The agreement states that there must be a minimum of 120 parking places for vehicles and their trailers in close vicinity of the launch ramp.
The ramp must be open seven days a week. When I called the marina office they informed me that the ramp is open 24 hours a day. I have heard, from a very reliable source, that there has been times when people have been turned away from the launch ramp during special events at the Dunes.
Alford has received complaints about the launch ramp being closed, and when he contacted the Dunes management, he said he was told that errors where made by employees during those special events.
To my understanding these closures have been very rare. I have only heard about one on a major holiday years ago. But who should you call if you showed up to the ramp and it was closed or if the parking requirements where not at minimum standards and you where turned away? Newport Beach city code officers are responsible for policing the settlement agreement.
From my observation, the launch ramp is run well and exceeded my expectations. There are launch services and operators to help you with many of your boating needs.
Pete Swift, from Swift slips, recently informed me that they have a great working relationship with the Dunes and are launching four times a week there. One thing I did learn recently is that there is a rather deep drop off at the Dunes so if you have to do a deep water launch you should talk to the launch operators.
My gut still tells me our harbor needs more than one trailerable boat launch ramp, preferably city owned. Finding that location is like placing a square peg in a round hole and I know of only two places, both in the upper bay, that there is still space left.
One is in Castaways lot just north of the Pacific Coast Highway bridge. The second is North Star Beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center. Both of these areas are basically impossible to place a launch ramp in because of traffic concerns but unfortunately they're about the only place still open around the harbor.
18th Street Beach Launch

My other concern is we have lost the ability to launch small trailerable sailboats, unless you are a yacht club member, in the lower bay. I have mentioned many times I was introduced to our harbor by being able to launch our Hobie Cat from the 18th Street beach. I have always held a deep belief that we need to keep accessibility to the harbor for the novices new to our sport of sailing and boating.
The good news is, we still have plenty of places to launch kayaks, SUP, and other small boats that do not require trailers. Eighteenth Street is still open, North Star Beach appears to be the best place in town with a ton of free parking, the small beach next to the Lido bridge on the north side is still well used.
The Castaways lot appears to be a desirable location, although there has been a fence placed around the seawall area and posts placed on the south end — I assume to keep trailerable boats from launching.
North Star Beach next to NAC
I laughed to myself when I noticed the two new park benches added there and the portable toilets. But hey, what are you going to do? The place is open and you will start seeing signs being placed on the street welcoming the public into this area soon.
Also on this week's Harbor Commission agenda was the review of objectives for the upcoming years. I will review these objectives once they are all established. If you have any harbor concerns it's time for you to contact your favorite commissioner or council member and let them know what you are thinking.
My concern is the ability to streamline our permits for new docks and develop an eelgrass mitigation plan for new docks.
One last note before I go — we have a new sheriff in town. Lt. Mark Alsobrook, of the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol, recently took the helm has our new harbormaster. At first glance, I like what I see.
He and Deputy Sean Scoles attended the meeting and promised to keep in touch by making a quarterly report to the Harbor Commission. This is huge and long overdue in my opinion.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist for the Daily Pilot.

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