Byline: Taylor Hill
DANA POINT — The Orange County Planning Commission unanimously approved the final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for Dana Point Harbor’s Marina Improvement Project at its Sept. 27 meeting.
The commission’s recommendation came following a public hearing on the plan in which eight speakers were heard — six in favor of the project and two against it. With the Planning Commission’s recommendation, OC Dana Point Harbor director Brad Gross said the SEIR will next need to be certified by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which is expected to review the report in November.
The SEIR was originally scheduled to be discussed at the Planning Commission’s Aug. 8 meeting. But with more than 1,000 pages of material in the report, boating groups and other members of the public asked for a postponement of the SEIR hearing, to review the documents and submit further comments regarding the plan.
The waterside revitalization plan that was sent to the commission was narrower in scope than the originally approved Dana Point Harbor Revitalization plan that was part of the harbor’s overall $140 million rebuilding effort approved in 2006.
The newly drafted SEIR No. 613 takes into account strains put on the plan by a possible lack of funding, because of uncertainty about the future of the California Department of Boating and Waterways loan program. The SEIR also includes responses to multiple comments from the public about narrowing the scope of the plan to better fit the harbor’s needs.
Some of the major changes to the project include the removal of an expansion of the Dana Point Sailing and Events Center docks that some feared would encroach on the popular Baby Beach area, limiting the recreational swimming and paddling area on the waterfront.
More than 600 petition signatures had been received from residents and visitors to Dana Point, who formed the Save Baby Beach group that stood in opposition to the dock expansion plans. The SEIR revision would keep the current dock configuration along the center’s west side as it is.
In addition, OC Dana Point Harbor’s plan to reconfigure the West Basin docks from their east-west alignment to match with the north-south configuration of the East Basin has been removed in the preferred alternative plan, and the plan to narrow the harbor’s east and west channels has been removed, as well.
Both the West Basin configuration and the harbor narrowing were opposed by the boaters’ advocacy group Dana Point Boaters Association. Its members had proposed an option to replace and modernize the aging docks, without fully demolishing the marinas and issuing a complete rebuild using $80 million of boater-generated funds.
The Planning Commission approved all three alterations to the plan.
With the new updates, the Revised Project Alternative will include replacement of waterside facilities in the West and East basins (without realigning the West Basin), connect dock gangways with the quay wall and bulkheads within those basins, upgrade pumpout stations, and replace gangways and security gates at both basins.
New Embarcadero dry boat storage staging docks and dinghy docks are proposed, along with renovations to the marine services docks, guest docks, Harbor Patrol docks, commercial fishing docks and sportfishing docks. Sticking to the Coastal Commission’s original mandate, no more than 155 slips will be lost in the new project alternative, and the average slip size will change from 29.5 feet to 32 feet.
The revised plan with its new preferred alternative will be sent to OC Board of Supervisors, which must certify it before the Harbor Department can begin designing the final plans. With the design plans in hand, OC Dana Point Harbor will seek Coastal Development Permits from the California Coastal Commission for each phase of the project.
Gross said a construction start date has not been set, but the waterside portion of the harbor revitalization plan remains about one year behind the landside commercial and boating facilities redevelopment plan, which is not scheduled to begin until 2014.