NEWPORT BEACH – Boosting the city’s attempt to keep its harbor clear of discarded boats, the Newport Beach City Council unanimously voted Oct. 14 to receive a state grant to remove abandoned vessels.
The grant, given by California Division of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating), is for $125,700 and would finance Newport Beach’s desire to remove abandoned vessels “in a continued effort to preserve the charm and character” of its harbor.
Funding is expected to cover the city’s abandoned and nuisance vessel programs through October 2016.
With the grant, Cal Boating provided the funding through its Surrendered and Abandoned Vessel Exchange (SAVE) Program, Newport Beach will be able to dispose of vessels either abandoned in the harbor or turned into the city as a nuisance.
A city resolution stated abandoned, derelict and unseaworthy vessel within the waterfront would be removed because “Newport Beach … is desirous of preserving and promoting uses that contribute to the charm and character of Newport Harbor.”
“The city encourages public access to the water and makes slips and moorings available to rent for visitors and locals alike. However, with accessibility to public amenities comes the occasional misuse in the form of vessel abandonment [and] illegal berthing,” city staff stated. “Inheritance of derelict and abandoned vessels forces the individual’s responsibility of disposal related fees upon the city.”
Newport Beach reportedly demolished or junked more than 10 vessels in 2013. According to city staff, each vessel cost Newport Beach between $1,200 and $1,600. The price tag did not include administrative or personnel costs.
A state grant was sought to cover these costs since the Orange County District Attorney’s Office chose not to pursue legal action against owners of abandoned vessels. Accordingly, the costs associated with removing the abandoned vessel from the harbor became the city’s responsibility.
“Considering personnel time and material costs to remove abandoned vessels from the water, the process is expensive. This SAVE funding will allow the city and county to expeditiously process and demolish vessels, and ultimately recoup the costs up to $125,700,” city staff stated, adding they are “exploring alternate mechanisms to reduce costs and improve the effectiveness of the abandoned vessel remediation.”
Newport Beach works with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Marine Operations Bureau to address abandoned vessels within the harbor. Their joint duties include relocating “problem vessels” to city or county owned moorings, securing the vessels from sea lions and swim steps, pumping out water, processing DMV paperwork and coordinating with local contractors and shipyards “to relocate vessels for haul out and demolition.”
“Various factors have led to the decline in upkeep of various vessels that are at home port in Newport Harbor. Notably the rise in economic impacts to the boating community has hindered owners from properly maintaining vessels,” city staff stated. “Also, some boaters are no longer able to physically or financially tend to their vessels. In some cases the cost of vessel upkeep outweighs the value of the vessel.”
Council members voted in favor of receiving the grant without discussion and as part of the consent calendar.