By Matt Morrison

For a generation of youngsters who grew up around the Newport Harbor, there’s a legacy to perpetuate. OK, maybe they’re only considered youngsters on a geologic scale, yet together they’ve accumulated decades of passion for the fabulous waterway central to our community. The goal now is to preserve it for generations to come.

We might compare it to fixing up a stately landmark home; the curb appeal is still magnificent but the bones need attention. Dennis Durgan can certainly relate to the analogy.

A residential real estate professional in the community for more than four decades, Durgan grew up on the harbor, beginning in the early 1960’s when it was a seasonal recreation destination. He learned to sail here, then went on to crew in three America’s Cup competitions working with both Ted Turner and Dennis Connor. Now it’s a cause for the future, and not just his own.

“There are numerous issues the harbor has, and will continue to have, as we move forward. There’s more and more people that want to use it,” Durgan explains. “I used to call it the sandbox. Well, the sandbox is overflowing with kids that want to play.”

“With all of their toys…” chimes in Val Lyon, like Durgan, a board member of the Newport Harbor Foundation, established in 2019.

Balboa Island Docks & Boats

It’s unfortunate that the city council recently threw a monkey wrench into our harbor dredging plan. Whether intentional or not, they voted 6-1 (Duffield voting no) to slow down and potentially kill our harbor dredging project. I grew up on the harbor and have a business on the bay. I’ve seen the results of benign […]

Newport Harbor Fiscal Area

Lower Newport Bay’s main channel (the harbor) has not been dredged to its required 25-foot “design depth” since 1938. Our harbor is the primary economic, recreational and water quality resource asset in Newport Beach.

We haven’t had the money or political will to dredge the harbor’s main channel to its federally required design depth, until now.

As part of the U.S. system of waterways, Newport Harbor’s dredging is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government.

But we are in competition for federal funds with the nation’s major ports and naval bases.

Finally, after decades of lobbying, we are receiving nearly $16 million in dredging funds thanks to the hard work of Representatives Michelle Steel and Ken Calvert.

With funding in the bank, it’s now the city’s job to deliver a dredging plan that passes regulatory muster with the multitude of agencies that must approve the project. As the former Harbor Master, I can attest to the fact that the actual dredging will take less time than the permitting process.

We are at an inflection point in this critical process.

Dozens of Harbor Commission and City Council meetings with robust public input have resulted in a certified Environmental Impact Report It lays out a plan to bury and cap nominally contaminated dredge material (sand) in a hole between Lido and Bay Islands. It’s the same process used across the U.S. since the 1980’s to decommission landfills.

At last week’s city council meeting, the council majority agreed to allow an open-end third-party review of the City’s approved dredge project and one advanced by well-intentioned Lido Island residents.

This 11th hour review is a bad idea. It jeopardizes the federal funding and scheduling of the multi-million dollar dredging project for Newport Harbor.

A delay for an independent third-party review could set this whole project back years by putting a halt to all the momentum the process has at this time.

This in turn could make the cost rise substantially if the City could get it back on track with the Federal and State governments dredging contractor.

Our window to dredge is open now. Confusing state, local and federal agencies will close it.

Dennis Durgan / Chairman, Newport Harbor Foundation and Former Newport Beach Harbor Master

This letter first appeared in the Newport Beach Independent…

Newport Harbor Dredging Project

By Laylan Connelly – Orange County Register

Officials have secured $8.3 million to dredge Newport Harbor in the $14 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but sand replenishment projects for two stretches of Orange County coastline were not included.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel said dredging of Newport Beach’s harbor is long overdue in her announcement Wednesday, Jan. 19, about the federal funding, but also stressed the need for added sand along the coastline. Funding for the Surfside-Sunset Replenishment Project, which would seed beaches through Huntington Beach south to Newport Beach will have to hope for final approval from another Congressional appropriations bill, the timeline of which has been unclear.

So is the San Clemente Shoreline Project, which would replenish beaches in the southern city, including improving the buffer of shoreline along a key coastal rail line.

Both projects have been stalled for years, awaiting funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the replenishments that help create a beach buffer that would protect roads, homes and infrastructure from ocean flooding, as well as keep beaches – one of the region’s major tourism draws – from disappearing.

In 1962, Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act, which required the Army Corps of Engineers to address the impacts of the constructed flood control structures on the sand deposits that should be happening naturally along shorelines.

The $23 million Surfside-Sunset project – $15.5 million in federal money and $7.63 from local agencies – would add 1.75 million cubic yards of sand to Surfside, which would then be pushed down the coast by ocean currents and waves, spreading it 12 miles south to Newport Beach.

The last time sand was added was 2010 – previously the replenishment happened every five to seven years.

“There is more work to do, and I will continue to demand action from the administration and the Army Corps to fully fund the Surfside-Sunset Replenishment Project because we are one natural disaster away from devastation,” Steel said in a statement.

San Clemente has been waiting about two decades for its big replenishment project. The city two years ago received a boost in the amount of $500,000 in federal funding for the design phase.

With no beach left, a wave crashes against the rocks and stairs just below the railroad tracks at North Beach in San Clemente on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The project would add 251,000 cubic yards of sand from Linda Lane beach to T-Street beach south of the pier. The sand has shrunk so much there in recent years, city leaders have discussed the possibly of moving San Clemente’s Marine Safety Headquarters off the beach. When big surf hits, the surf laps onto the railroad tracks.

About $9.3 million was requested in the bipartisan infrastructure bill by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin for the San Clemente Shoreline Project.

Levin helped secure $30.5 million in federal funding for the Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project and $1.8 million for the Oceanside Special Shoreline Study, his office announced Wednesday.

The Encinitas-Solana Beach project involves placing 700,000 cubic yards of sand along 7,200 feet of beach in Solana Beach and 340,000 cubic yards of sand along 7,800 feet of beach in Encinitas.

The Oceanside shoreline study will create a plan to mitigate erosion and other effects from the construction of Camp Pendleton Harbor and will restore beach conditions along the affected shores to the conditions that existed before its development.

Levin’s office said he is also “continuing to fight to finalize federal funding for the San Clemente Shoreline Project.”

Read more at the Orange County Register…

By Amy Senk

Corona del Mar resident Paul Blank was named Newport Beach Harbormaster last spring, a grand achievement to cap off an on-the-water lifestyle that began at age 10 with a two-week sailing class offered through the city’s recreation department. The harbormaster’s job is typically described as being a lead ambassador for Newport Harbor, one of the largest recreational harbors in the country, and includes overseeing a dozen or so employees and an annual budget of $1 million-plus. But like most things in the past year or so, the first several months have been filled with surprises. I caught up with him to learn more.

Q: What role did you play as harbormaster in the days after the oil spill, and what stands out in your mind now as the most notable thing that happened?

A: The response to the Amplify Energy Oil spill in early October was swift and multifaceted. My specific roles included surveying the harbor beaches for oil contamination, monitoring the harbor entrance for potential intrusion or contamination and participation in the City of Newport Beach Emergency Operations Center, which integrated with the Unified Command Response managed by the U.S. Coast Guard. A huge amount of my time was spent communicating my findings to others in the EOC and the UCR as well as with Harbor constituents and my patrol team in the Harbor Department. When the decision was made to close the harbor entrance, I was there to witness it and then established a patrol presence to advise mariners in a firm but friendly way of the closure and alternatives while they were unable to get in or out of the harbor. As the situation evolved, my role shifted into advising mariners, local businesses and residents where they could go for support or to file claims for loss or damage sustained as a result of the spill. I also spent considerable time and effort supporting the vessel decontamination site that was established at Marina Park. I am thankful that through the duration of the crisis, we were not forced to close or curtail activities on the harbor. Sailing classes, races, rowing, paddle boarding and casual harbor cruising all continued even though the entrance was closed. While not everyone could engage in all the activities they may have wished to while the entrance was closed, the harbor remained clean, safe and well enjoyed.

Q: We keep seeing mega yachts off the coast of Newport Beach. Have they caused any problems?

A: Newport Harbor has become a more popular port of call for mega yachts this year. Some vessels choose to enjoy anchorage off Big Corona Beach for their visits. Others have stopped there while waiting for a favorable tide to enter and transit the harbor. I am pleased to have made the process of reserving and making use of the Large Vessel Anchorage easier for the yacht managers. I am also pleased with the tenor and tone of the dialogue that continues with nearby residents and businesses. Concerns remain about traffic and congestion in that part of the harbor, but no negative impacts have been observed or reported to me. Newport Harbor is a “no-discharge harbor,” meaning no waste or refuse may go overboard. All vessels mooring or anchoring in Newport Harbor, including these mega yachts with dozens of paid, professional crews, are subject to dye-tab testing of their marine sanitation systems. This is the method we use to test the integrity of the vessel’s plumbing and waste holding tank. One vessel was tested upon arrival recently and didn’t pass. We allowed the crew an opportunity to check the settings on all their pumps and valves. A little less than an hour later we returned to re-test and the vessel passed. No pollution or waste was discharged into the bay in that first test, so no citation was issued, and the vessel was welcome to stay in the harbor. If any vessel is subsequently witnessed discharging into the bay, citations are written which come with a financial penalty and the vessel may be asked to leave the harbor. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often.

Q: What is the Take Back Our Harbor movement, and what are your thoughts about it?

A: Take Back Our Harbor is the tagline for the newly formed Newport Harbor Foundation. The Foundation is a nonprofit group with a mission similar to the Newport Bay Conservancy. While the Newport Bay Conservancy is focused exclusively on improving Upper Newport Bay –essentially everything north of the PCH Bridge – the Newport Harbor Foundation is focused on preserving and improving the lower Newport Harbor. While I am not directly involved with the group, I am supportive of their mission. The group’s efforts align nicely with the Harbor Department’s goal of keeping the harbor clean, safe and well enjoyed.

Continue reading at Stu News Newport…

William “Skip” Kenney

Newport Harbor Foundation Chairman Dennis Durgan has announced the addition of Newport Beach Harbor Commission Chairman William “Skip” Kenney to the Foundation’s board of directors.

Kenney joins former Newport Beach Harbormaster Dennis Durgan, Val Lyon, and Devon Kelly.

“As we build out our board of directors Skip Kenney’s almost eight years of service as a harbor commissioner and over forty years of business experience is a welcome addition to the Foundation’s board,” said Dugan. “Skip was instrumental in the complex redrafting Title 17 of our Harbor Code so it reflects current conditions in the bay. He listened to the multitude of stakeholders and worked with his colleagues to help create a blueprint for the harbor that helps the Foundation with our goal of taking it to the next level.”

“My service on the Harbor Commission will end next June,” said Kenney. “I am excited about transitioning to the Newport Harbor Foundation and their mission to preserve our most important asset while improving it for future generations. I appreciate the Board’s confidence in me to help realize their mission.”

Kenney has been involved in the shopping center industry for over 40 years, many of which were spent at Donahue Schriber, a well known Southern California based shopping center developer. He formed The Kenney Company in May 1995 to pursue new development opportunities and challenges.

He is a past Chairman, President, and Treasurer of the California Business Properties Association, and a past State Governmental Affairs Chairman for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He currently is the Chief Financial Officer of Balboa Yacht Club and has been serving on the City of Newport Beach Harbor Commission since 2014, including three terms as Chairman.

The Newport Harbor Foundation was incorporated in 2019 as a 501C3 non-profit educational corporation dedicated to the preservation and improvement of Newport Harbor. At a recent kick-off luncheon, the Foundation raised $550,000 towards their goal of $2.5 million to purchase police boats and fire boat for the harbor.

Original published on the Newport Beach Independent…

Board Member Devon Kelly

Longtime Newport Beach resident Devon Kelly has joined the Newport Harbor Foundation board of directors.

“Devon brings a wealth of harbor history and knowledge to the Foundation’s mission. She has spent her entire life sailing on the bay and volunteering in the community. Her boundless energy is welcome as we push towards taking our harbor to the next level for all to enjoy,” said Newport Harbor Foundation Chairman Dennis Durgan.

“I’ve sailed throughout the United States and Mediterranean and believe Newport Harbor is a treasure that needs to be maintained and managed properly for future generations,” said Kelly. “I look forward to working with the Foundation to develop programs to improve water quality and enhance the harbor’s ecosystem for recreation, boating, and commerce.”

Kelly was born and raised in Newport Beach and grew up sailing and cruising to Catalina. She attended Newport Harbor High School and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She and her husband Gregg have two children who live locally. Kelly taught school at Carden Hall Elementary in Newport Beach, and coached field hockey at Newport Harbor High School. She has served on the Newport Harbor High School Educational Foundation and also was a Board member on the Lido Isle Community Association.

The Newport Harbor foundation was incorporated in 2019 as a 501C3 non-profit educational corporation dedicated to the preservation and improvement of Newport Harbor. At a recent kick-off luncheon, NHF raised $550,000 toward their goal of $2.5 million to purchase police boats and fire boats for the harbor.

First published at the Newport Beach Independent.

It’s been more than five decades since Newport Beach City Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield started his Duffy Electric Boat company.

Duffield built his first boat when he was 16 years old. His company has sold tens of thousands of boats and become synonymous with Newport Beach, where Duffy rides on the harbor are the norm.

“I’ve had to endure decades of laughter,” he told a crowd — also laughing — on Thursday at the Balboa Bay Resort. “To be known as a builder of the world’s slowest boat is something that I really didn’t think I wanted on this planet. I wanted to be a famous sailboat designer and racer dude, and I sort of kind of am, but not really.”

Still, Duffield now hopes the Newport Harbor Foundation can also similarly be built from the ground up.

The foundation, launched in 2019 before being curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, held a kickoff champagne brunch Thursday.

It announced that it had raised more than $275,000 at the event, which also served as a celebration of 50 years of Duffy boats. That number was doubled to $550,000, as foundation chairman Dennis Durgan said there was an anonymous matching gift.

The Newport Harbor Foundation’s stated goal is to take back local control of Newport Harbor, which is now patrolled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and start a Newport Harbor Public Safety Department.

Durgan, himself a former harbormaster, said the foundation wants to initially raise $2.5 million for the purchase of a fire boat and four police patrol boats.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times…

Marina Park

Last week 175 residents, political leaders, and Newport Harbor supporters donated over $550,000 to kick off the Newport Harbor Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to return local control of our harbor to the city.

We celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Duffy Electric Boat. Duffy’s passion for the harbor spans decades.

With 25 miles of frontage, almost 10,000 boats of all shapes and sizes, kayaks, paddle boards, sailing clubs, and charter boats the harbor resembles the 405 Freeway on a busy weekend.

An estimated seven million visitors per year use Newport Harbor’s complex ecosystem that generates an estimated $1 billion per year of economic activity.

Our harbor is essentially a city within the city.

We believe our harbor asset needs to be properly managed by the city.

Our mission is to “Take Back Our Harbor.” It begins with Newport Beach creating our own Harbor Public Safety Department operated by our city, not the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The Foundation will raise over $2.5 million to purchase and donate a fire boat and police boats to the city for a Harbor Public Safety Department.

This plan does not displace the Sheriffs Harbor Patrol They will continue to use their Homeland Security grant to police the coastline for drug runners and illegal immigrants. They will be available for large-scale emergencies in the harbor through existing mutual aid agreements.

Our Harbor Public Safety Department will use the city’s existing police, fire and lifeguards to make the harbor safe for residents and tourists. We believe local control of the harbor is best achieved by Newport Beach running the show.

If you agree, sign up for regular updates at www.newportharborfoundation.org.

Dennis Durgan / Chairman, Newport Harbor Foundation, Past Newport Beach Harbor Master

This first appeared at NewportBeachIndy.com