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Leak in fire supply line to El Torito Mexican Restaurant the latest in county repairs needed to bring aging Dana Point Harbor infrastructure up-to-date

Construction crews are working to repair a fire line leak at the Dana Point Harbor. Similar repairs have cost an estimated $2 million since 2005, county officials said. Photo by Andrea Papagianis
Construction crews are working to repair a fire line leak at the Dana Point Harbor. Similar repairs have cost an estimated $2 million since 2005, county officials said. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

By Andrea Papagianis

Heavy machinery and signage reading “All businesses open during construction” have recently provided a greeting for visitors of the Dana Point Harbor.

With concrete walkways torn up and deep trenches dug, construction crews are working to replace a leaky pipe leading to El Torito Mexican Restaurant.

A large trench was dug near El Torito Mexican Restaurant and the Dana Point Harbor so a fire supply pipeline could be replaced. Photo by Andrea Papagianis
A large trench was dug near El Torito Mexican Restaurant and the Dana Point Harbor so a fire supply pipeline could be replaced. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

Similar repairs and maintenance to aging infrastructure throughout the port have cost an estimated $2 million since 2005, said OC Dana Point Harbor Director Brad Gross. In addition to that, the current repairs are likely to cost another $100,000, he said.

The leak started in a fire supply line to El Torito. Crews repaired the line, but a required fire inspection and subsequent pressure test turned up problems with original materials. An increase in pressure requirements proved too much for the original pipes, and caused additional failures in the line, Gross said.

A larger portion of the pipeline is now being replaced with a material able to withstand current water pressure requirements, he said. Pipe replacement could be wrapped up in the next few days, Gross said, followed by the replacement of a concrete walkway and steps to the restaurant.

Aside from messy walkways and bulky machinery, Gross said businesses are operating as usual.

“Given the age of our facility, we continually experience these types of situations,” Gross said in an email. “Our repairs and maintenance of the infrastructure continue to keep pace with our goals of maintaining a safe and enjoyable environment for all our Harbor users, but getting to these underground areas continues to prove difficult and expensive.”

The Harbor was built in the early ’60s and much of the infrastructure and numerous buildings are in need of repair. Through Orange County’s planned $140 million Harbor Revitalization, aging structures, on land and sea, as well as underground utilities will be replaced or rehabbed, but the changes are still a ways off.

Gross pointed to this incident as being one reason, on a list of many, to get the Harbor revamp moving.

Orange County’s proposed Harbor revamp could eliminate 13 commercial buildings in the area known as Mariner’s Village. Seven new retail and office buildings, built near the commercial docks, would replace the older structures. Changes to the Harbor’s landside also include renovating buildings surrounding the commercial docks—like Wind & Sea Restaurant and Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching—and building a parking structure and community park.

On the water, boaters could see changes to slips and amenities, as well as a new dry-boat storage system that could hold 400 vessels in a barn-like structure.

OC Dana Point Harbor staff is currently preparing to submit a Coastal Development Permit application to the city of Dana Point. It is the county’s next step as the project inches closer to public hearings with the city’s Planning Commission.

The Harbor is owned by Orange County, but falls within the Coastal Zone, meaning both the city and California Coastal Commission have jurisdictional rights. The city’s planning document, the Local Coastal Program, was approved by the state agency in 2011, meaning the city has the authority to approve building permits within the coastal zone—like the Harbor project.

The Coastal Commission previously approved much of the landside plans, but now the city must give final approval. Waterside changes still need approval from both bodies.

No date has been set for a Planning Commission hearing.

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