By Lauren Williams and Jill Cowan
7:48 PM PDT, June 21, 2013
A state panel Friday approved the creation of a fund to cover improvements in Newport Beach's harbor, city officials said.
The State Lands Commission, a voting panel of three officials, approved the city's request to create the Harbor Fund, which accepts money from recently increased dock fees, according to a city statement sent out Friday. Residents who have strongly opposed the fee increases, including the Stop the Dock Tax and Newport Beach Dock Owners Assn., also fought the creation of the harbor-specific fund, alleging that the city had been misusing money generated by all state tidelands-related fees.
"We appreciate the State Lands Commission's approval of this fund," Mayor Keith Curry said in the city statement. "The dredging and sea wall improvement needs of Newport Harbor took another large step forward today. … I continue to find it puzzling that the self-appointed leaders of this group would go to such lengths to try to block the city from earmarking funds for harbor improvements and capital investment. I hope that irony is not lost on their neighbors or other harbor users."
In February, the Newport Beach City Council voted in favor of increased dock fees for residential pier owners, fuel docks and commercial marinas on state tidelands. Earlier this week, city staff mentioned at a meeting of the Tidelands Management Committee that the harbor fund was on the calendar for the State Lands Commission and was expected to pass.
"We're disappointed, we don't think it was correct," Stop the Dock Tax Chairman Bob McCaffrey said Friday afternoon.
He said the group plans to continue to wait for a decision on a lawsuit it filed against the city in hopes of invalidating the process by which the dock fee increases were levied.
"We still expect to win in that area," he said.
"I never understood why Bob McCaffrey actively opposed such an obviously beneficial way to assure that the increased rent collected from dock owners will be spent on harbor improvements," said Councilman Mike Henn, who is the chairman of the Tideland Management Committee.
"However, I am very pleased that the State Lands staff and commissioners clearly saw this and unanimously approved the action. I look forward to continuing our efforts to improve our harbor going forward."