Coastal Commission asks NB for specifics on fire ring pilot program

Coastal Commission asks NB for specifics on fire ring pilot program

NEWPORT BEACH – The city’s application to the California Coastal Commission for a pilot program limiting fire ring fuel to charcoal has been deemed incomplete with commission staff requesting city officials to provide more details on the program.

“The Community Development staff is in the process of reviewing the letter received from the Coastal Commission and we don’t have a date for the City’s resubmittal to Coastal,” Public Information Specialist for the city of Newport Beach Mary Locey explained in an email.

Coastal Commissioners sent the letter that outlines six areas of concern, to the city on Aug. 15. The letter is in response to the city’s application for a Coastal Development Permit to implement a pilot program limiting fueling sources in all beach fire rings to charcoal only. The application was submitted on July 17.

According to the letter, the city must provide the proposed duration of the pilot program, describe how charcoal will be made available to fire ring users and how much money has been allocated to providing users with free charcoal.

“Where are the free charcoal locations, how are they staffed, and how is the public informed of the availability and location of free charcoal” the letter asks. “During what hours is free charcoal available? Is there a limit to the number of bags given out per ring or per person? What type of charcoal has been and will be given away (lump or briquettes)? To expand the city’s ability to provide free charcoal, have you considered approaching charcoal companies about donating charcoal for purposes of this pilot program? Will the city make charcoal available for purchase at Corona del Mar State Beach and in the Balboa Pier area? If the city does make charcoal available for purchase on-site, will there be a limit on the price charged?”

Monitoring efforts are another area of concern, with the letter also asking the city to describe in more detail the efforts that has already been undertaken to monitor compliance with the charcoal—only rule and its impacts on fire ring use.

“Is the city surveying fire ring users to find out whether their experience with charcoal is comparable to wood?” the letter asks. “What questions is the city asking fire ring users about their experience and about whether the charcoal-only rule is a deterrent to their use of the fire rings? If there is a survey questionnaire, please submit a copy.”

The letter also asked if the city has conducted air quality monitoring to assess whether fire ring emissions have decreased since implementing the charcoal-only rule and asks for a description of the methodology and its results.

Coastal Commissioners also questions if the city has assessed the potential air quality and health impacts associated with use of charcoal and started products, including lighter fluid, compared to the use of wood. Copies of any scientific studies reviewed are to be submitted to the commission, the letter states.

An eight step monitoring program was also provided in the letter, which includes a control site where wood burning is allowed; documented use of lighter fluid at charcoal-only fire rings to understand whether lighter fluid is only used to start charcoal or is being used to maintain flames to approximate a wood fire’ document the average number of bags of charcoal used at fire rings and the average duration of use; count the number of people leaving the beach areas after learning about the charcoal-only rule;  track the dates and amount of free charcoal provided to fire ring users to compares user statistics when free charcoal is available and not available; survey fire ring users to assess quality of fire ring experience at charcoal-only fire rings and at the wood burning control site, and more.

The letter ends by asking the city to “submit any information which you feel may help Commission staff gain a clear understanding of the scope of your project.”

“Upon receipt of the requested materials we will proceed with determining the completeness of your application,” the letter states.

The city implemented the charcoal-only rule for fire rings in March.

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