Letters/Online Comments

Letters/Online Comments

RE: “Long Beach amends maintenance contract with Los Cerritos Wetlands” (June 26-July 9)

In the Manila Dunes well-meaning folks removed non-native vegetation resulting in the draining of the very wetlands that we were paying to enhance. Now our once fixed dunes are now destabilized, wildlife has disappeared and erosion is out of control. Please learn from our mistake, don’t listen to Nativists.

Dan Edrich

RE: “King Harbor Mooring Field Revenues Don’t Cover Maintenance Costs: Should it be Reduced?” (July 10-23)

Insufficient information is provided in the article for any reasonable evaluation, even aside from the requirements of the Grant Agreement with DBW. There is also a hint, but no real information that the private contractors involved with management and maintenance may not be happy with the current arrangement. The occupancy rate as presented is dismal, but there s no real information about possible reasons, ranging from condition of the individual moorings, limitations on length of stay, cost per night calculations, comparative costs for short term slips, availability of services (starting with shore boat service), location comfort, security (crime), safety (natural events) and so on. All should be available and in the mix before any meaningful discussion can take place. Opinion surveys are not cheap, or accurate, depending on the method, sources, and payer, but I’d bet some people have some readily accessible, reliable, and independent sources already have some information, maybe some ideas and more than a few suggestions.

Brian Aherne


All comments are edited for grammar and clarity. 


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  • The Orange County, CA Parks Department is a component of County Service Area (CSA) 26 in local government. The CSA funds the Orange County (County) park system throughout the entire county. As part of the standard process of governance periodic reviews of the CSAs are conducted to ensure that opportunities for efficiencies are realized in the administration of County government. For the municipal service review (MSR) of MSR 26 I have authored this information in an effort to enter into the record information relating to Newport Harbor and Newport Beach coastline public safety issues. Some of the funding sources for Newport Harbor include tidelands funds, County annual vessel taxes, and funding from the Orange County Parks Department.

    Any review of public safety services in Newport Harbor should include a comprehensive analysis of what is currently provided and what should be funded by the public. Additionally, the residents of Newport Beach and the surrounding communities of Orange County often desire a higher level of services. To organize these services, it will be important to separate public safety operational functions from the administration of Newport Harbor resource regulatory usage.

    The administrative control of boating operations in Newport Harbor was transferred from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) within the last five years. There were manifold reasons for this change; perhaps the most likely benefit to the City of Newport Beach (City) was more local control, at some financial cost to the City. Certainly, direct control of these functions by an employee reporting directly to City officials enhances the efficiency of the administrative services to a demanding public. However, there is likely a financial charge to the City taxpayer in the fully extended cost of pay and benefits, including membership in retirements costs to CalPERS. An unbiased actuarial assessment should be conducted to determine the difference between what the City was paying and what they spend today to fully understand any difference.

    The operational functions of the public safety component regarding Newport Harbor as well as the City responsibility for the three mile limit from mean high tide is perhaps the most expensive to protect. Currently, the safety of the public is provided by a constellation of resources from public agencies that serve to address an immediate response to an incident as well as long term campaign efforts to mitigate an emergency event. The agencies currently responsible for the basic public safety response in Newport Harbor and the Newport Beach coastline are the Newport Beach Fire Department (lifeguard marine operations division), the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (Harbor Patrol Division), and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The authority for these agencies’ responsibility rests in state and Federal statutes; Cal. Emergency Services Act, Sec. 8618, Cal Harbors & Nav. Code Sec. 510, 33 U.S.C. Section 1223.

    Authority versus responsibility and capability. From a local government perspective it is clear that the City controls any emergency incident that occurs within its jurisdictional boundaries (Cal. Emergency Services Act Sec. 8618). Further, the Newport Beach police have primary responsibility for general law enforcement within the City boundaries, including Newport Harbor and other inland waterways within Newport Beach boundaries and in the Pacific Ocean three nautical miles off the Newport Beach coastline (California Government Code Section 41601). The local sheriff is mandated by California law to maintain a capability to aid and assist persons and vessels in the coastal waters independent of jurisdiction (Cal. Harbors & Nav. Code Sec. 510). The USCG maintains broad authority over navigation safety in the navigable waters of the United States (33 U.S.C. Sec. 1223).

    At some point in about 1973, the City abdicated responsibility for some control over the Newport Harbor to the Orange County Harbor Patrol. Subsequently, the Harbor Patrol operation was transferred to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the staffing for the previous duties were now done by OCSD (deputy sheriff) personnel. The difference here is that the OCSD deputies are trained law enforcement “safety” members with a different retirement benefit under the 1937 Act retirement system. The reasons for this change initially included issues of drug traffic and access to Newport Harbor and the need for enhanced law enforcement protection, and the subsequent increase of immigration challenges along the Orange County coastline.

    The November 9, 2010 review of the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Harbor Patrol discussed, among other issues, the roles and responsibilities of the OCSD Harbor Patrol. In that document, the issue of marine firefighting was addressed. According to the Orange County Counsel, marine firefighting duties were not a legal obligation of the OCSD Harbor Patrol. This is important because it relieves the OCSD Harbor Patrol from any responsibility to deliver an effective and safe firefighting force for the boating public of Orange County. Accordingly, the OCSD Harbor Patrol deputies, while highly skilled law enforcement officers, are not properly trained firefighters and would not be able nor are they required to conduct interior structural firefighting operations onboard a vessel.

    Marine firefighting is a very dangerous aspect of firefighting and should not be undertaken by an unqualified, or undertrained employee. The complexity of a vessel with redundant electrical systems, liquid fueled power systems, rotating machinery, high pressure hydraulic systems, hazardous materials storage, large fuel capacity, confined space challenges, and operations away from land all serve to make this a task for only those trained and certified for this dangerous work. The California Labor Code under the injury, illness prevention program (Cal. Labor Code Sec. 3203) is instructive. The law dictates that an employee whose duties include dangerous activities must be properly trained and equipped to perform such duties. The OCSD Harbor Patrol deputies are not properly trained in firefighting duties, much less marine firefighting duties. The instruction provided to deputies with respect with marine firefighting is a curriculum not developed by firefighters, not vetted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (State Fire Training Division) and not approved by State Fire Training (SFT), the only agency approved by the State to approve firefighting curriculum in California.

    Absent the proper training of OCSD deputies in firefighting instruction, developed by SFT and delivered by qualified instructors, these OCSD deputies cannot and should not engage in interior structural firefighting duties onboard a vessel. This means that if they do not, they will not be disciplined for lack of performance because they are not properly trained. The City provides a false sense of security to the public in this sense. Remember that in Newport Harbor, unlike Dana Point and Huntington Harbor, there over 1200 moorings. These boats on these moorings should be viewed a floating condominiums away from advanced fire protection capability. I suspect that when boaters see the OCSD fire boat on the water they believe that fire protection is nearby and that they will enjoy an adequate measure of safety, but as I have explained that is not nearly the case.

    From a fire protection perspective I believe the City should deploy some degree of firefighting capability to meet a strategy that speaks to the expected challenges within their jurisdiction. The City has the authority, and abdicating this to under trained employees of the OCSD does not meet the challenge nor will it provide political cover in what will eventually occur. The Conception Boat Fire of September 2019, where thirty four people died of smoke inhalation in a boat fire in Ventura County, followed by a fire fatality in Los Angeles in San Pedro Harbor in October 2019 speak to the relevance of a marine firefighting capability. Vessels and boat design are not regulated like structures built on land, and this leads to greater challenges for occupant egress and firefighting ingress. With a great natural harbor in Newport Beach and the large number of vessels therein I have advocated for over then years that this matter be addressed. The following actions should be done by the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ):

    1) Identify the AHJ with marine firefighting in Newport Harbor
    2) Design and develop a marine firefighting curriculum for all those with responsibility for fire protection on the waters of Newport Harbor and the coastal waters of Newport Beach.
    3) Deploy an adequate firefighting capability by the AHJ
    4) Develop and sign a mutual aid agreement with the USCG
    5) Engage SFT to design and develop a marine firefighting curriculum
    6) Conduct regular marine firefighting exercises with NBFD personnel so as to achieve proficiency
    7) Coordinate 911 cellular service so that the City public safety agencies dispatch centers i.e., NBPD, Metro Net, NBFD lifeguard division are included as a primary into the public safety answering point for Newport Harbor

    Because Newport Beach is the AHJ I believe that the City will need to meet many of these challenges. With respect to the deployment of a fire suppression capability on the water it should be sufficient to meet the determined strategy for the protection of life and property. This is to suggest that capability, redundancy, and adequacy are fundamental to this essential service. If the City attempts to engage in a minimalist approach, via the purchase of a single under-engineered fire boat it may only serve as some form of “window dressing” that will not address the operational need and sit on the water until it becomes unusable. Vessels, like automobiles, must be used and check regularly for operational readiness. This is a paramount requirement of a business where the nobility of purpose is protection of the public. If the right people are involved in the decision making process a solution can be achieved with a properly engineered and redundant solution, including sufficient resources dedicated to a lifeguard rescue vessel with fire pumping capability perhaps similar to what is deployed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department lifeguard division.



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