Disaster response authorities reopened Newport and Dana Point harbors to boat traffic on Friday afternoon, as officials downsized their estimates on the magnitude of Orange County’s oil spill.

Earlier in the day, authorities still working to contain the spill announced they would cut off their regular public briefings until “new significant information becomes available.”

Just hours later, County of Orange officials informed reporters that those same disaster response officials — who come from federal and state agencies, and are coalesced under the so-called “Unified Command” — authorized the reopening of the harbors.

“In cooperation with local jurisdictions, Unified Command has announced that the Captain of the  Port will open Newport Harbor and Dana Point Harbor to all vessel traffic on October 8th 2021 at 3 p.m.,” reads a statement from the Coast Guard’s Los Angeles – Long Beach sector.

OC Oil Spill

Latest Figures
  • Authorities now estimate a spill size range between 25,000 gallons to a maximum of 131,000 gallons
  • 5,544 gallons of oily water retrieved
  • Approximately 172,500 pounds of oily debris has been recovered from shorelines
  • 14,060 feet of boom laid to try to curb oil spread
  • More than 900 people on the ground in cleanup effort
  • General questions: 714-374-1702
  • Do not approach affected wildlife, call in a report: 877-823-6926
  • Assist with animals: 714-374-5587
  • Help with cleanups: 714-374-1702
  • File a claim: 866-985-8366

Disaster authorities have signaled the oil spill, which appears to have started Friday last week, seems to be smaller in magnitude than originally thought. The highest initial estimate over the last week put the spill at a maximum of 144,000 gallons.

Then, on Thursday, those same officials signaled the minimum was likely more than 24,000 gallons and the maximum was 131,000 gallons. 

Both of the county’s coastal supervisors, Katrina Foley and Lisa Bartlett, commended the reopening in a Friday statement, with Foley stating: “The impacts of the oil spill have negatively impacted many small businesses that drive our vibrant coastal economy.” 

After spill response efforts began on Saturday last weekend, Newport Harbor was closed Monday and Dana Point Harbor was closed on Tuesday, amid concerns the oil would reach those areas and people recreating in the waters. 

Both docks are already home to scores of boats, varying in type, from smaller recreational ones and sailboats to larger yachts.

Victoria Winters, an avid boater at Dana Point harbor and member of the Boaters’ Association’s board of directors, said it “was a wise move for the harbor to close.” 

“They put those (booms) out, I thought that was a very wise, prudent decision and it didn’t bother me,” adding she’s “delighted to know” the Coast Guard has signaled the danger has seemingly subsided at least in those areas, and that “we can take out our boats again.”

There are also those who live out of their boats on the Dana Point harbor, and by Winters’ estimate there are around 20 live-aboard boats docked there.

The oil is still out there, and has even reached the shores of San Diego County. 

Efforts are still underway to skim pollutants off the seas, while Unified Command is leaning on volunteers to help fill in the gaps on cleanup worker demand to clear local beaches of oil globs which have washed ashore.

“A safety zone will continue to cover all navigable waters within” the impacted area “and associated salvage vessel operations,” reads the Coast Guard’s Friday statement. 

It adds: “No vessel or person will be permitted to enter the safety zone without obtaining permission from the COTP or a designated representative.”

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