The Harbor Report: Can harbor proposals stay afloat?

While making my rounds around the harbor this week, my thoughts kept reflecting back to the comments made by Newport Beach Mayor Rush Hill at the 33rd annual Mayor's Dinner.

As most of you have already read, the mayor spoke about a pilot project to replace the current mooring can system with floating docks. He also discussed the need for a water taxi and hopes of adding two more public docks in the harbor.

Aside from the two new public docks, which are in motion and, by my observations, should be completed within the next three years, my first reaction was negative. I flashed back to junior high school, when I was promised Coca-Cola from the drinking fountains during our school elections.

A water taxi service has been studied and tried before, and the idea of floating docks would never make it past all the government agencies. My glass of Coca-Cola was not half full; it was half empty.

I then thought back to a couple of conversations with people I feel have a good understanding of our harbor. One of the first comments I recalled was from a Nov. 15, 2012, interview with John Cazier, staff commodore of the Balboa Yacht Club.

"This place would be a different world if we took all these moored boats and placed them onto a floating marina," he said. "Floating docks are a big change to try to institute. Every square foot of water out there is worth a lot of money, and we are using it very badly."

I also recalled a conversation with Marshall "Duffy" Duffield, reviewing the need for reducing the size of our mooring fields and making our mooring system more user-friendly. Duffield has a well-thought-out concept on how this system can work and has considered almost every variable.

My observations regarding the floating docks come down to finding the captain who will get on this boat and ride it to the finish line. This is a very difficult request, asking for a captain to go find a crew for this journey.

Most of our harbor's doers are still feeling the sting from their efforts regarding mooring and the marina permit process. Does the harbor need a new mooring system? Yes, but from my chair, this makes famous single-handed sailor Joshua Slocum's efforts look like a Duffy cruise around our harbor.

As for a harbor water taxi system, my glass of Coca-Cola is still half empty. In 2009, there was a Water Taxi Exploratory Committee that included some of our harbor's smartest people. Michael McNamara was the chair, serving with Richard Luehrs, John Corrough, Chandler Bell, Mark Silvey, Gary Sherwin and John Robinson.

This committee completed a 100-page analysis called the Water Taxi System Conceptual Feasibility Analysis. Unfortunately, I do not have the patience to read through this document three or four times before I can understand how all this information should be used.

Should we have a water taxi? Yes, but it's going to cost a whole lot of money, and in this case, if you build it, they may not come. I will try to post this report on my blog site, or you can just email me and I can send you a copy.

As a harbor user, I feel fortunate that we have the mayor's attention. I just have to ask if it's pointed in the right direction.

I would respectfully request that our City Council stay focused on helping the Harbor Commission and Harbor Resources department complete our RPG 54 and eelgrass mitigation plan so that we have a usable dredging permit.

Council will also be hearing a recommendation from the Harbor Commission on how to maintain our guest docks. Let us not forget the work being proposed at the Lower Castaways. Please keep in mind we will need to dredge the harbor again, and I like the idea of having our own dredging equipment.

I feel it comes down to keeping the harbor user-friendly and guest-friendly. I always tell my customers, before you walk into West Marine and just start buying things for your new boat, ask yourself: Will you use those items the next three times you go boating? If not, you just might not need that item at the moment.

Sea ya.

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

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