SANTA BARBARA — Plans for what has been hailed as a much needed renovation at a frequently used boat launch ramp in San Diego Bay gained its first round of backing from the California Coastal Commission on June 8 as commissioners approved a port district plan amendment at their two-day meeting in Santa Barbara.
The Port of San Diego spent the past few months reviewing plans and obtaining funding for the planned renovation of the Shelter Island Boat Launch Ramp before submitting its Port Master Plan Amendment to the Coastal Commission for approval.
“It would allow us to move forward on some very necessary improvements,” Randa Coniglio, the port’s president and CEO, told commissioners.
She added the launch ramp would also feature an upgraded kayak launching area and maintain one open launch lane during summer months.
Coastal Commission staff acknowledged the current boat launch ramp at the northern border of San Diego Bay is heavily used and is in need of being updated. The Port Master Plan Amendment would allow renovations to be made to the launch ramp and riprap.
“It really is a very highly used boat launching facility,” Commissioner Greg Cox said, pointing out about 50,000 boats are launched from the Shelter Island Boat Launch Ramp annually.
The current 10-lane concrete launch ramp, as well as docks, gangways, nearby pavement and area lighting poles would be demolished and replaced with a new 10-lane cast-in-place concrete launching ramp.
Also to be removed would be a portion of the existing rock jetties, allowing the port to build new bulkhead walls and expand the boat basin from 22,800 square feet to about 41,000 square feet. The expansion would, according to Coastal Commission staff, create about “18,200 square feet of additional navigable water area within the existing basin.”
Newly built walkways would be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
Other new features at the new boat launch ramp would be updated floating docks, aluminum gangways, a concrete sidewalk, upgraded lighting, and pavement striping.
The project would also create about 600 square feet of space for onsite eelgrass mitigation.
Shelter Island’s boat launch ramp was originally built in 1956 but, according to both Coastal Commission and Port of San Diego staff, has significantly deteriorated.
Upgrading the boat launch ramp means the local boating community would enjoy several new benefits.
“The purpose of these improvements is to provide accessibility for users with disabilities, increase navigable water area within the existing breakwater basin to launch and retrieve boats, reduce boat congestion and improve boat maneuverability, safety, and operations at the facility,” Coastal Commission staff stated.
Demolishing and rebuilding the current boat launch ramp would cost the port about $9.45 million. The Department of Boating and Waterways is providing $6.1 million in grant funding to the port. Another $3.35 million in grant funding will come from the Wildlife Conservation Board.
Shelter Island’s boat launch ramp is free to the public. Once completed both port and Coastal Commission staff believe boaters will enjoy expanded public access and recreational opportunities.
The Coastal Commission identifies the boat launch ramp as a “lower cost visitor and recreational facility” that is “protected and encouraged by the Coastal Act.”