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September 30, 2009

Help may be on the way for San Diego'S Shelter Island launch ramp facility

Cal Boating approves $5.4 million to fix problems at Southern California's busiest launch, but challenges lie ahead

San Diego's Shelter Island is a great starting point for private boat anglers looking to target coastal kelp beds, the nearby Coronados Islands chain or countless offshore banks teaming with tuna, dorado and yellowtail.   It's universally recognized, however, that the ramp facility itself leaves much to be desired.  

The small facility, built in the 1950s, is inadequate for the approximately 49,000 launchings that take place each year (the majority of them during the summer months).   The small basin makes it difficult for boats to safely maneuver, limited dock space makes launching/retrieval a challenge (especially for single handed boaters), and the 10-lane concrete ramp itself is showing significant wear.  The San Diego Unified Port District wants to fix these problems by tapping California Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) funds.   It's notable that this money has already been collected from boaters across California for purposes such as improving infrastructure.

Cal Boating recently approved $5.4 million for a renovation of the aging and outdated Shelter Island ramp, to include replacing the sloping rock rip-rap (which reduces navigable space even further) with a vertical seawall at the outer edge of the existing basin.   This will increase the basin's interior volume 82 percent while staying within the existing overall footprint.  Doing away with the sloping rip-rap will also allow for ringing the interior of the seawall with docks, increasing available dock space more than four-fold.

This will be welcome news to the throngs of trailer boaters who have viewed dealing with the Shelter Island ramp as an evil necessary to enjoying San Diego's great ocean fishing.  

Before this can become reality, however, there will be significant challenges to overcome.    The governor or legislature of cash-strapped California could re-appropriate the funds for other agencies and has also threatened to eliminate Cal Boating entirely to save the state money.

If the Boating and Waterways Commission approves the project in an October vote and the funds aren't pulled away from boaters to bail out our broke state, the first improvements could begin in 2010.