Multiple state agencies were called in this week to investigate a sheen of diesel seen near the fuel and ice dock that Pillar Point Harbor boaters rely on and prompted the owner of service business to shut down for a day.
The service station that’s vital to the fishing industry closed Thursday and is expected to reopen Friday, said Harbor Master Scott Grindy.
The U.S. Coast Guard, California Fish and Game and other agencies visited after local boaters reported tainted water at the service dock near the end of Johnson Pier in Half Moon Bay, Grindy said.
Edmundo Larenas, chair of the local Surfrider Foundation chapter, said he and wife Mary noticed unclean conditions at the fuel station over the weekend. Larenas said this was the first time they’d seen a problem at the fuel dock, but they’ve long had concerns about fuel and oil leaking into the harbor from nearby boats.
“[It wasn’t] an oil spill or anything like that, just a small amount of diesel fuel in the water. So we looked around and took some pictures because what we saw, in our view, was not proper maintenance,” Larenas said. “We noticed rags and buckets of diesel fuel, it just wasn’t good practice.”
Larenas said they called the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to make a report which initiated an environmental review.
Grindy said he and other officiating agencies came, checked the location multiple times, but didn’t see any sheen.
“What I understand, because I own a boat, that when you go to a fuel dock or other spots, sometimes your engine might be off and … can get a sheen when one drop pops out of the gas line, kind of like a car,” Grindy said. “There were no drips causing anything on the water. It’s basically that there was a sheen there at the time [the Larenas were] there, but there was nothing when the Coast Guard was there.”
KN Properties owner Keet Nerhan, who runs the business and leases the dock, announced at Wednesday’s Harbor District meeting that he would close until it was cleared by the district or an environmental agency, according to Grindy and Harbor District Commissioner Sabrina Brennan.
Grindy and Brennan said they were concerned for the fisherman who began to complain about not being able to conduct business without fuel and ice.
“For a fisherman who needs to go out fishing, or even a charter boat operator, or really any boater, they need fuel and they can’t operate without it,” Brennan said. “Generally speaking, fishermen need ice, you can’t run a commercial fishing harbor without ice and without fuel.”
Grindy agreed there was a lot at stake if the matter wasn’t resolved quickly.
“Right now, there’s salmon and squid coming in. On certain days, we’ll have up to 30 truck of squid being loaded so if those boats show up and there’s not ice… they could lose all that product,” Grindy said.
Grindy said he immediately requested the Coast Guard return and conduct another inspection Thursday to appease the property owner and the public. Again, it determined there was no problem, Grindy said.
“They were reinspecting. They hadn’t found anything before but they were happy to come out and help because I didn’t want to see all these boaters and fishermen without fuel,” Grindy said.
The Harbor District has a clean marinas certificate, continues to strive to keep the harbor clean and the fuel dock isn’t a general problem, Grindy said.
In typical Harbor District form, accusations about political incentives and mistrust floated around since the issue was first brought up.
“I don’t see anything political. I just see that someone came in and made a complaint. I don’t see any problem with the public coming in and saying there was a problem,” Grindy said. “But I think the property owner was there at the meeting and didn’t expect [hostility].”
Brennan and Larenas said the cleanliness of the harbor and frequency of boats leaking oil or fuel into the water has been an ongoing issue. But despite what political issues it brought up, the result was positive, Larenas said.
“Regardless of what all the hyperbole was, it’s much cleaner now than when we reported it,” Larenas said. “So whatever happened for whatever reason, it’s the outcome that we wanted. For that fuel dock to clean up it’s act.”
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