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Ventura County Officials Tackle Berth Control

Harbor Department takes on a sportfishing operation after the former concessionaire declines to repair the aging docks.

May 17, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

The Ventura County Harbor Department is temporarily in the sportfishing business after assuming control of Cisco's Landing at Channel Islands Harbor.

Cisco's, which operated on a month-to-month lease in recent years, vacated the landing late last month. The company, which had received a 30-day notice to begin repairs after almost two years of negotiations, decided against investing the money needed to modernize the 38-year-old harbor's aging docks.

"The last thing we wanted to do was take over a sportfishing operation," said Harbor Master Jack Peveler, who oversees patrols and maintenance at the county-run harbor in Oxnard. "But the docks are really in bad shape and there were safety concerns. The facility is in dire need of some serious love."

County officials expect to finish repairs within 45 days of receiving approvals needed from the state Coastal Commission, and hope to have a new operator in place by Sept. 1.

"The docks have been in need of repair for a long time," said Bob Valney, owner of the 60-foot Seabiscuit, one of 10 boats at the landing. "Just in the last few weeks, the county has gone in and made repairs and given this place a face-lift."

Now doing business under its original name, Channel Islands Sportfishing Center Oxnard, the landing is home to private boats that make scheduled daily departures and are available for charter.

There isn't enough space to accommodate those vessels at Capt. Hook's Sportfishing, the other commercial landing at Channel Islands Harbor, so the department decided to keep the center open until it secures a new concessionaire.

"That's one of the main reasons we stepped in," Peveler said. "We want the sportfishing industry to succeed. If we hadn't gone in, we were afraid those boats would have had to go away" to San Diego or the Pacific Northwest.

The department plans to refurbish a 14-slip portion of the docks that was once used for boats needing short-term space. It will move the for-hire boats to that section and remove the remaining 22 slips until there is money available to replace those docks.

Because the county is using materials donated by a recently renovated private marina and is having the work done by its own employees, its costs will stay below $150,000, Peveler said. By comparison, he estimates it would cost $1.5 million to build a new 36-slip dock, not including the installation of new pilings and floats, a gangway and an electrical system.

"Docks aren't cheap," said Carol Abella, deputy director of the Harbor Department. Abella and other department officials will soon review bids from up to four operators who expressed interest in running the sportfishing center.

The landing's former operator paid about $48,000 in rent from June 1, 2002, through May 15.

If a prospective concessionaire is willing to spend the money required to fully modernize the landing, a long-term lease could be negotiated, Abella said.

"I personally would like to see someone running it as a long-term operation," said Frank Ursitti, a 25-year harbor tenant who runs the charter boats Ranger 85 and Coral Sea. "I certainly applaud the county's efforts to keep our business going, but I believe private enterprise would do a better job in running the operation. Someone who has a vested interest in a business is always going to do a better job."

For further information, contact Channel Islands Sportfishing Center Oxnard at its new telephone number: (805) 382-1612.

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