Mailbag: Could the rich and famous save the ferry?

The Balboa Island Ferry transports vehicles and pedestrians from Balboa Island to Balboa Peninsula.
(File Photo)

Although I haven’t taken the Balboa Island Ferry across Newport Bay in a few years, I can’t remember the famous little boat not being around (Balboa Island Ferry may sink, not swim if engine conversions can’t be made, Daily Pilot, March 22). I used to take short hops across the bay walking onto the boat, riding my bike or driving my car. No matter which way I crossed the water, I always enjoyed the view of other boats, people on paddle boards and, at times, the opportunity to ogle expensive fancy yachts cutting through the water.

The ferry service now faces its 100-year existence as something that may be gone in a short time. Because of mandatory zero-emission engines by 2025 to convert to new state-mandated standards, the estimated cost of new engines for the three ferries and the battery charging stations on shore would run about $5 million, which the owners do not have. The absence of the boats would be a sorry scenario for Newport Beach and Balboa, not to mention the negative affect the loss would create for businesses in the immediate area.

Newport Beach and the Balboa area were, and still are, fairly prominent for what would be called “famous” folks. Some of the past residents include such names as Lauren Bacall, James Cagney, Joey Bishop, Humphrey Bogart, George Burns, Buddy Ebsen, Shirley Temple and John Wayne. More contemporary names include Nicholas Cage, Dick Dale, Heather Locklear, Chuck Norris, Cathy Rigby, Gwen Stefani, Emma Stone and Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli. I only highlight these people who have lived in the area and most likely have at one time or another availed themselves on a little boat trip across the bay on the ferry and enjoyed the watery trip in the same fashion as us not so famous folks. If the ferry’s owners are not able to fund the conversion to new engines to keep the ferries running, perhaps the celebrities mentioned above could carry the weight and keep those memories going for future folks wanting to cross the bay.

Bill Spitalnick
Newport Beach

Monastery is pricey retreat

Regarding the monastery listed among the Gems of O.C. canyon country, TimesOC, March 19: This is indeed a “gem.” This abbey had a price tag of $160 million, sits on 327 acres, and houses 70 men who belong to the Catholic Norbertine Order, which supposedly pledges poverty: “By the vow of living without anything we call our own …” Maybe this order should reach out to the homeless.

Eberhard Neutz
Laguna Beach

Historical land use in N.B. raises concern

Last week the Los Angeles Times published an article of specific interest to Newport Beach. A new study has been released in a scientific paper about parts of Newport having areas where soil vapors contain trichloroethylene, more commonly known as TCE, a chemical agent known to cause kidney cancer after prolonged exposure. The research paper recommends that there should be increased scrutiny of areas long contaminated by TCE, as there could also be a link between it and Parkinson’s. TCE is a colorless liquid that had a variety of practical uses in the past such as removing gunk from jet engines, stripping paint and removing stains by the dry cleaners. Because of its widespread use, there are thousands of contaminated sites.

The scientific paper references a plume of contamination underlying a portion of Newport Beach, one of California’s largest residential communities affected by chemical vapors. The chemicals were left in shallow groundwater
by a former testing ground for missile systems.

Ford Motor Co. had operated an aeronautics campus in Newport Beach on a 98-acre campus where it developed tactile missile systems up until 1993. At that time the area underwent some environmental remediation, and eventually it was redeveloped into residential properties. Some chemical contamination remained and migrated into the groundwater. As groundwater in Newport was not used for drinking, there was no concern about it being a threat to public health.

In 2014, a federal agency became concerned of the dangers of breathing the vapors of TCE. Ford has been working with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board to address volatile compounds in soil and groundwater. They provide regular updates to the community.

Bayridge Park and Belcourt Terrace are two of the communities with the greatest concentrations of TCE. Ford is working to install a system of underground pipes designed to treat underground vapors for about a year, which is expected to lower indoor TCE levels to state standards. As one of the engineers who grew up in Newport Beach acknowledged, “This is one of the wealthiest parts of the entire United States. If this is happening in a resource-rich area, think about what’s happening in a resource-poor area.”

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

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