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NEWPORT BEACH : Coastal Commission OKs City Reservoir

The California Coastal Commission has approved Newport Beach’s application for a permit to construct a 3-million-gallon reservoir on the city’s west side.

But at least one resident is crying foul because the project was started long before the permit was granted Thursday.

The permit allows the city to continue building the reservoir and add a 5,950-square-foot building at the adjacent city utilities yard. The commission also allowed the city to lay part of 6.5 miles of 36-inch pipeline to Fountain Valley, where water can be pumped from wells and into the reservoir. The commission permit covers only 1.2 miles of pipeline because the rest is outside the coastal zone.

The commission vote was unanimous, even though some commissioners expressed concern about the city’s starting the reservoir before the permit was issued.

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“I’m not up for holding up the project, but I am concerned that they didn’t have a permit,” Commissioner Linda Moulton-Patterson said.

Commissioner Louis Calcagno said if a private business had started work without a permit, it would be risking any chance of approval.

“I have a hard time with that,” he said before casting his vote.

City Manager Kevin J. Murphy said starting without a permit was an honest mistake.

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“It wasn’t any attempt to not comply with the Coastal Commission rules,” he said. “We have built up a long relationship with the Coastal Commission and we don’t want to jeopardize that.”

Murphy said Newport Beach residents will pay less for water once the project is completed.

The excavation at 949 W. 16th St., between the city yard and West Newport Oil’s property, is already “about five stories deep and a football field across,” said resident Dean Reinemann.

He complained to two commission officials Monday about the apparent violation of the California Coastal Act.

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John Auyong, who evaluated the city’s application for the commission and recommended conditional approval, said he was not aware the city had started the project without a permit until Monday and it became too late to recommend some kind of reprimand.

But a commission secretary confirmed that a sign from the commission posted outside the excavation on July 28 notified passersby that the permit was pending.

The secretary also said the city submitted its application for the permit on Nov. 19. The application was reviewed on then turned over to the commission on July 22.

Murphy said the city made its application in November believing the pipeline was in the coastal zone but the reservoir was not.

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City Utilities Manager Jeff Staneart said work began in January and the city did not realize its mistake until Reinemann complained.

Staneart said he checked his department’s maps against those in the Planning Department and found a discrepancy.

“I was stupid. I didn’t know where the boundaries of the coastal zone were,” he said.

The permit was approved with conditions on preserving vegetation, limits on potential development and a requirement to bring in a Native American consultant if artifacts are found.

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