Harbor District may impose higher fees

Houseboat owners, fishermen and recreational boaters might have to pay higher fees beginning in July as the county Harbor District moves to narrow its largest budget shortfall in recent history.

The district — which oversees operations for Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay and Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco — is facing a deficit of about $573,000. Pillar Point in particular has been hit hard by a loss of revenue due to restrictions on salmon fishing, the closure of Devil’s Slide and cool, overcast weather, Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell said.

The district also plans to place a hiring freeze on currently vacant posts and delay several projects, including the purchase of a utility pickup truck for Pillar Point Harbor and the repaving of the east parking lot at Oyster Point, to save between $300,000 to $500,000, officials said.

The good news is that the deficit isn’t worse, considering earlier projections were as high as $900,000 if the salmon season were canceled all together, Grenell said. The season was restricted due to the dwindling numbers of chinook in the Klamath River, which fishermen blame on poor water management by farmers, officials said.

“As a result of the restricted salmon season, there is a ripple effect to just about every business we deal with,” county Harbor District board President Pietro Parravano said.

Parravano said locals still hope the weather will take a turn for the better, bringing more salmon to the surface, but with a 75-fish limit a week per boat, the take isn’t enough to keep major commercial operations in fuel.

Another major factor contributing to the deficit is the district’s first $2.4 million payment toward the $19 million it owes the state Department of Boating and Waterways for the construction of the two harbors. The district plans to approach Boating and Waterways about refinancing the debt next year, Grenell said.

While the shortfall is considerable, it’s not huge, Grenell said. If need be, the district can tap into its $8 million reserves, he added.

The Harbor District will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at its meeting June 21, at the Municipal Services Building, 33 Arroyo Drive, South San Francisco, CA 94083 at 7:00 p.m.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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