Newport Beach City Council heard and unanimously approved this week a set of 10 objectives for the Harbor Commission for the 2014-15 year.
Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield recused himself for conflict of interest.
Harbor Commission Chairman Brad Avery and Commissioner Doug West gave a presentation on the 10 goals.
The commission is tasked with two main responsibilities: “To ensure the long term welfare of Newport Harbor for all residential, recreational, and commercial users; (and) to promote Newport Harbor as a preferred and welcoming destination for visitors and residents alike.”
The first objective is to support Harbor Resources staff in achieving final interagency approval of the Newport Shallow Waters Eelgrass Mitigation Plan, facilitating a new Regional General Permit (RGP 54).
The purpose of the plan is to enable a more efficient and cost-effective permitting process for dock maintenance dredging through an ecosystem-based approach to sustaining and promoting the population of shallow water eelgrass in all areas of Lower Newport Bay where such eelgrass is found.
“Goal number one is perhaps the most important current issue facing Newport Harbor,” Avery said.
West explained a bit about RGP 54 permit and how it applies to the Newport Harbor.
The eelgrass plan is designed to promote and protect the shallow water eelgrass population of the lower bay with an
ecosystem base approach, which they have been advocating for several years, West explained.
It’s been years in approval process with multiple agencies, he continued, and is now in the final stage with the California Coastal Commission.
Recently, the CCC chief biologist raised some fundamental questions, which may have been better to have been raised a few years ago, West noted. A critical meeting discussing these questions is scheduled for next week.
The city application is set to be reviewed by the CCC in April.
“We remain hopeful and optimistic,” West said.
Goal number two is to complete the development of recommendations for the best pubic use of Lower Castaways, the last remaining undeveloped city-owned waterfront property.
For the commission’s third goal: Secure California Department of Recreation approval for a proposed amendment to the Harbor Code which would grant an exception to the harbor speed limit (of five mph) for sanctioned sail racing and human powered racing events. With such authorization, the commission will recommend the proposed amendment to the City Council for enactment.
For their fourth goal, they wish to create a forum for dialogue with representatives of the harbor Charter Fleet to promote the development of a shared vision of charter boat operation standards to be achieved collaboratively by 2020, with particular emphasis on environmental considerations.
“What it will look like, what it will sound like, the level of noise, level of emissions from the engines, all of it,” in the future, Avery said. “It’s certainly not about constraining the business or constraining the charter fleet in anyway, it’s working to produce a vision of what we want the fleet to look like.”
Commissioners also want to collaborate with the Marine Committee of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce for their fifth goal. Together they hope to work on the development of strategy recommendations to support the preservation of water-dependent commercial and recreational activities as prescribed in the Harbor Area Management Plan and the Harbor and Bay Element of the General Plan.
Their sixth goal: Complete the evaluation of public moorage and anchorage alternatives, and specifically address the concept of an anchorage in the Turning Basin such as the one used on a temporary basis during the 2012 Lower Bay dredging project and the suggestion of day moorings off Big Corona beach.
Commissioners aim to update and publish a 3rd edition of The Complete Cruising Guide to Newport Harbor for their seventh goal of the year. The guide was first published by the Harbor Commission in 2010, West explained.
“It has proven to be quite popular with visiting boaters from up and down the coast as well as Newport Beach boaters,” West said.
Number eight is to investigate the availability and sufficiency of launch ramp facilities in the harbor and report findings to the Commission. Present specific recommendations to the City Council, as appropriate.
A big part of the commission’s mission is to increase the connectivity of the harbor and maintain and grow points of access, Avery said. This objective works into that mission.
The ninth goal for the commission is to support the Harbor Resources staff and City Council in the ongoing evaluation of a potential Harbor Waterbus Service.
The Harbor Commission’s final goal for the 2014-15 year: Develop and present to City Council the Commission’s policy recommendations concerning the operation of water propelled vessels in Newport Harbor.
This item is basically off the commission’s desk and on its way to the council, Avery noted.
After a couple of questions from council members, they voted to approve the goals.
“I want to thank the Harbor Commission for all the hard work that they’ve done,” said Mayor Ed Selich after the vote. “I think the last few years has really been terrific. This committee approach that you’ve taken where you get out and just do a lot of hard work in digging through these issues has really provided us with a lot of protective results.”