The Harbor Report: My interview with Chris Miller

Last week, I sat down with Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller and asked him a few questions.

Harbor Resources is structured under the city of Newport Beach's Public Works Department. It's tasked with managing everything on the waterside of our harbor's bulkheads. This includes piers, dredging, pump out stations, city codes, complaints and permits pertaining to our harbor.

Miller grew up in Newport Beach. As a child, he sailed sabots in Balboa Yacht Club's junior program.

"One of my fondest memories as a fifth-grader was sailing my sabot up to the Fun Zone, getting some pizza at Pizza Pete's, and playing skeet ball for most of the afternoon," Chris told me.

He attended Carden Hall for grade school and then went to Newport Harbor High School, Arizona State and Chapman universities. Along the way he worked in the city's youth employment services, its parking lots, and then in the harbor, where he was hired as harbor supervisor, working under his mentor, Tom Rossmiller.

Chris has now been managing our harbor's resources for three years. During his time in the job his three most memorable projects have been last year's completion of the Rhine Channel dredging, the realignment of the mooring fields and refurbishment of the public docks.

"I truly enjoy working with the public on projects," Chris said. "I get to meet people like Carter Ford, who put in a tremendous amount of time into the public docks, making sure they came out as well as they did."

Upcoming projects for 2012 include dredging Lower Newport Bay, aligning the mooring fields, and installing new pump-out stations. Even one of my "Silly Ideas" made it through all the red tape: Before year's end, there will be a Marine Recycling in the Basin Marina, very similar to Dana Point's.

There are two other people who work in Harbor Resources: Shannon Levin, who now serves as harbor supervisor, and Lisa Walters.

The list of tasks that these three have been assigned would fill my column for the next two months. From my observations during the past five years, their task list has grown while the harbor office's staff size has shrink. The three are doing a fantastic job, and while their department has changed with the times, the staffers are very approachable and accessible to the public.

For example, last summer I placed a call about a boat exceeding the speed limit in front of Lido Isle Yacht Club. The very next day, that boat had slowed down and changed its route.

Now these types of calls, including complaints about nighttime noise, should go to the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol, but my point is that there are other options.

While I was with Chris, I asked him to explain the difference between the Harbor Commission and the Tidelands Management Committee. Both are government bodies that focus on the harbor, and Chris and his staff attend the meetings of both bodies.

"The Harbor Commission works on obtaining feedback, advice for the City Council regarding on how the harbor should work, look and function," Chris said, noting that the Tidelands Management Committee is a subcommittee of the council that controls the budget.

"That's not to say that the council is ignoring the Harbor Commission" Chris added.

For what it's worth, in my opinion, the Harbor Commission needs to feel some love for the City Council if it truly expects good feedback. Finally, my last question for Chris was what can the public do for the Harbor Resources department.

"Get involved, please attend the Harbor Commission meetings and please try to be patient with us this year during the Lower Bay dredging," he replied. "This is a big project, and we have not done this in a while."

As a seat-of-the-pants sailor myself, from what I could tell, Chris Miller has a steady hand on the tiller and drives a straight course.

Sea ya!

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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