Harbor Commission to study additional launch ramp locations in Newport Harbor

NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Beach Harbor Commission acknowledged the limited number of locations where a recreational boat can be launched during a Sept. 9 meeting where commissioners received a report on Newport Dunes and a general update of recreational boat launch ramp locations.

“Both the public and the Harbor Commission have [in recent years] noted the lack of available locations where vessels may be launched, particularly from a trailer. Currently, the only option for trailered vessels is at the Newport Dunes launch ramp, which is north of the Coast Highway bridge,” according to a staff report. “During peak summer days, holidays or during Newport Dunes special events, the Newport Dunes has closed the launch ramp upon reaching capacity which has discouraged some boaters.”

City staff presented terms of the Newport Dunes settlement agreement at the Harbor Commission’s Sept. 9 meeting. The terms limit the use of Newport Dunes to include a 430-slip marina, six-lane boat launch ramp, recreational vehicle (RV) park, beach, restaurant, swimming lagoon and up to 400 spaces in dry boat storage. Marina users can access a clubhouse, pumpout, restrooms and storage space.

Questions abound of where a city-owned boat launch ramp could be built. The Lower Bay’s waterfront is, for all intents and purposes, fully developed. Any development in the Upper Bay might have to clear environmental hurdles or protests.

The city generally prohibits launching a boat into the harbor over a public seawall or by sidewalk, street end or other public property. Boats can only be launched in areas designated by the city or where a business offers such services.

Anyone launching from a city-designated boat launch site can do so between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Using a trailer, dolly, roller or other mechanized device to launch a boat anywhere other than Newport Dunes is currently prohibited under city law.

Launching a boat by hand is permissible at designated locations in Newport Harbor. This allowance generally applies to kayaks, standup paddleboards and boats small enough to not require a trailer to be hauled.

Newport Dunes sits on 100 acres of Tidelands; Orange County holds the Dunes in trust. Private operators Waterfront Resort Properties and Newport Dunes Marina lease the land from Orange County.

Newport Beach, Orange County and Newport Dunes Inc. reached a settlement agreement in 1983 to resolve jurisdictional and entitlement disputes. The settlement agreement was amended in 1984, 1987, 1988, 1990 and 2012 to limit the Dunes’ land use and development.

Land entitlements within the settlement agreement included a 275-room family inn, 430-slip marina, 400-space dry boat storage, a 4,500-square-foot coffee shop (Back Bay Bistro) and two additional restaurants.

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