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On the Harbor: Harbor Commission addresses mooring issue changes

By LEN BOSE

It was a fascinating night at the Harbor Commission meeting this last Wednesday night (March 8), with the first sign of activity being when you have difficulty finding a parking place. The next point of interest is having a Newport Beach police officer standing in the corner of the chambers while more than 65 people are in attendance. Over my 15 years of covering the Harbor Commission, the only time an officer has been in attendance has been during harbor permits, marina, or mooring issues that have been placed on the agenda.

This time, it was the moorings that brought the crowd into the Council Chambers. On my arrival, I looked over the crowd with many of the same people attending that have a strong interest in the moorings – being mooring permit holders. First on the agenda was Council Policy H-1: Review of proposed changes to pier and float extensions beyond the pierhead line. My first thought is why is this topic first on the agenda and then it became obvious why the chambers were close to full. About three-quarters of the way through public works admin. manager Chris Miller’s presentation, it finally came to me that this topic has been around for longer than I have and how important these proposed changes are around the harbor.

Waterfront homeowners along with marina operators might want to take out at least one earbud to understand the staff’s upcoming recommendations. This is not a “Ring the Bell” topic, so my guess is you will want to understand who you would be talking to should you ever wish a change to your dock. A Bravo/Zulu, for a job well done, needs to be given to Miller for bringing a clearer understanding to pier head lines that circle our harbor. 

On the Harbor picturesque newport harbor

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Len Bose

Picturesque Newport Harbor

Now to the elephant in the room – a proposed pilot program to change the mooring system within our harbor. The history of the mooring system is lengthy, so let’s dive into the murky sand below the surface. Harbor Commissioner Ira Beer has been tasked with providing the Harbor Commission with a recommendation that can be presented to the City Council. Two of the many intentions of this objective are to come up with a way to decrease the size of the mooring fields and create more water space throughout the harbor. Should you want the long version of this topic go here, then hit the link “Current Agenda Packet,” head to Item 2 where you’ll find the mother lode of attachments. At the meeting, Commissioner Beer made his presentation, followed by the Newport Mooring Association rebuttal. This reminded me of the President of the United States’ “State of the Union address” followed by the rebuttal of the opposition party. What was the outcome? The Harbor Commission voted 5-1, with one member abstaining, because of a conflict of interest to proceed to the City Council with the Mooring field report.

At the City Council meeting, the Harbor Commission will be recommending a Pilot Program in the Mooring C field which is just to the east of Bay Island. One or two rows of mooring will be changed to the new mooring system, where the moorings and vessels will be observed to see if this new system will work throughout the harbor. I hope that the councilmembers noted Commissioner Don Yahn’s suggestion to monitor the pilot field for a whole year with winter and spring bringing the true test to the pilot mooring field.

There were a couple of comments made by the Newport Mooring Association (NMA) that made me go hmmmm. One was the clear understanding of the mooring permit transfers under the changes being proposed to the Title 17 Harbor Code for the new mooring system. When a NMA member asked for clarification from City Attorney Jeremy Jung, it was my understanding that he said, more than twice, there will be no change in the transfer of mooring permits process. It would be much more comforting to have clearer wording than what is proposed now within Title 17 and permit transfers. A couple of other topics also grabbed my attention within the new mooring system. Many people thought that one was to go bow to bow along a row of mooring. This is not my understanding: whichever way it is easier for you to approach your mooring is the route you should take. The other idea that I feel is important to recognize is that if the weather conditions are too difficult to get onto your mooring and harbor patrol is unavailable to assist you, the harbor has locations around your mooring area where you can stay until the weather conditions change. With that all said, it’s time to go sailing.

Sea ya.

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Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for Stu News Newport.

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