I am sure there are many harbor users who are still rather bunched up about the recent tidelands permit increases. So let me take a few minutes to shed some light on your eelgrass and explain your options on dredging your slips. You might just come away feeling a little better how your money in the tidelands fund is being spent.
Last year, the Regional General Permit 54, which allows residents to dredge, was allowed to expire. This kept residents from being able to dredge their slips for more than a year.
As of Jan. 1, an RGP is in place until March 2014. This will allow our local property owners to proceed with dredging their slips this year. I should back up a little and explain that this year's RGP 54 cost the city $500,000. About $400,000 of that cost is spent on sediment testing, and $100,000 is for the permit itself. It is my understanding that for a property owner to obtain a permit, it will cost $1,640 to the city and $77 to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. The permit will take two months to obtain, and you will need to pay for the proper person to come by and document that you do not have eelgrass within 15 feet of your dredging project.
If you do have eelgrass, than that opens a whole other problem, which can lead you to abandon your project. Please keep reading — there is light at the end of this tunnel. This RGP that is in place now will allow you to dredge 7 feet into the lower, low tide and you cannot make any changes to your dock at this time. Your best-case scenario is to have neighbors go in with you and split the cost. One of the reasons to proceed this year is that the city could raise its permit cost in the future.
Now here is our light at the end of the tunnel: Our harbor commissioners and harbor resource manager have gone the extra mile and gathered the proper information to make a presentation/recommendation to our City Council at the Jan. 22 study session that will allow negotiations to start with all the different agencies for a new and improved RGP taking effect in April 2014. During this week's Harbor Commission meeting, it appeared that the commission's subcommittee, led by Chairman Doug West, had talked to all the right players from the different agencies and met with the Anchorage consulting company, Mike Josselyn of WRA Environmental Consultants, dredging company owner Mark Sites, and Lisa Miller-Strunk of Shellmaker Incorporated. Past Harbor Commissioner John Corrough was also in attendance.
From my simple harbor observations over the years, this was the best lineup I have ever witnessed to achieve a goal. The proposed change of terms to the RGP will be to dredge more sediment per permit, increase the depth from 7 to 10 feet, reconfigure existing docks to meet modern standards and — the clincher — address the impacts through a bay-wide eelgrass program. If I heard Josselyn and West correctly, it seems possible that we can get past the eelgrass problem by just seeding more grass throughout the harbor and thereby making eelgrass our friend, rather than an opponent of achieving our goal of dredging our slips. As a city, we still need to grab that ring; the exciting part is we can see the ring approaching fast and have a dream team set up to grab it.
In fact, I overheard the Anchorage consultants comment on the Harbor Commission after the study session say, "They really did their homework!" That type of comment really makes me smile and feel good about how our tideland money should be spent. I am going to try to post the audio of this study session on my blog site at lenboseyachts.blogspot.com. If you are going to dredge your slip sometime soon, I highly recommend you take a listen.
I would like to give a big shout-out to City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle. She reached out to me, after reading my last column, in trying to understand the tidelands fund account. We met in person and she spent more than an hour explaining the fund to me. She also really wanted my take on harbor issues and what people are saying. So keep coming up to me and asking your questions. I have never felt so good about the harbor and am very excited about the upcoming year.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.