Newport Beach cracks down on regulating moored boats

City staff monitors harbor for derelict vessels and attempts to deter sea lions; new dock regulations are also in place.

NEWPORT BEACH ― City staff is perusing the harbor in Newport Beach to ensure vessels are in compliance with Coast Guard regulations.

Harbormaster Dennis Durgan and his team began identifying moored boats in poor condition and boats at risk of sinking. They recently had to pump out water from one boat in particular to keep it afloat.

A sinking boat, according to officials, effectively functions as an environmental hazard, potentially polluting the harbor with marine debris and leaked oil.

Durgan has taken preventive measures by meeting with the city’s code enforcement supervisor “twice a week, about 1.5 hours each, to identify, photograph and have his division send a notice of infraction per Title 17,” the Harbor Commission Ad Hoc Committee quarterly status report stated as of Oct. 11.

The Newport Beach Harbor Commission Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of Commissioners Scott Cunningham and John Drayton, support city staff in the effort to locate and remove derelict vessels. They recently joined Durgan aboard a vessel and navigated around the harbor, taking notice of boats in need of maintenance or removal.

Notices are being sent out and boat owners have been responding by cleaning up their boats, according to Durgan.

Durgan and his team do not have the authority at this point to issue citations, which is why he is working with the city’s code enforcement officer.

“We don’t have all the impound ability and citation ability just yet,” Durgan stated. “We are working through that with the city and the attorney’s office to get everything finalized, so we can do things correctly and enforce our city codes.”

Durgan said no boats have been surrendered to the city, since he became harbormaster in July. The one boat, which was taking on water, ended up being surrendered to a salvage company at the owner’s expense. A couple other boats in the harbor are still a concern.

Decoy coyotes

            Sea lions and birds can do damage to a boat, so Durgan is also looking at ways to keep the animals at bay.

Durgan ordered eight fake coyotes for approximately $25 each. He’s reached out to home or vessel owners to obtain permission to place these fake coyotes on a swim step or boat dock.

The decoy coyotes are meant to be a temporary solution to deter sea lions off boats and docks, where they can make a mess and make too much noise “until the owners of the homes or boats can get down to put better measures on them,” Durgan said.

Durgan got the idea from the Newport Harbor Yacht Club dockmaster, who had a couple of the fake coyotes on boats at the yacht club.

“I think it’s a very humane way of dealing with the issue,” Durgan commented. “Some people have resorted to putting spikes through pieces of wood and setting those up on docks and swim steps.”

Are the fake coyotes working as a sea lion deterrent?

“I would say that 90 percent of them are working,” Durgan answered.

Whether the coyotes will continue to be a deterrent remains to be seen. Dana Point Harbor used air dancers as a method to deter sea lions, and the strategy was initially successful. Over time, however, the sea lions adjusted and eventually became less intimidated.

A boater at Dana Point Harbor, interestingly enough, had placed decoy coyotes on his boat, apparently as a way to deter sea lions and seals from his vessel. The Log had featured this vessel in its Aug. 25 issue. It is unclear whether there is any connection between the boater’s actions and Newport Beach’s deterrent activities.

Central Avenue Pier

Another new addition boaters may notice in the Newport Beach Harbor, aside from the coyotes, is the finished Central Avenue Pier.

The Log had previously reported on the construction being completed on the public dock, but there were no signs in place.Newport Beach Harbor Central Avenue Pier

The Newport Beach Harbor Commission discussed time limits in a September meeting and size limits in an October meeting.

“The Commission decided to limit the vessel size at Central Avenue to 30 feet and under,” Harbor Manager Chris Miller confirmed.

“The time limit depends where one ties their boat to the pier,” Miller continued. “Boats can dock for three hours on the landward or bayward side and 20 minutes on the other two sides.”

Construction has begun on the plaza adjoining the ramp and dock. The pier may be closed at times due to the construction of the plaza, as Miller previously mentioned.

Central Avenue Pier allows boaters to be able to tie up their watercrafts temporarily to access Lido Marina Village.


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