Childen's Pool may close, or the rope barrier may be reinstated, for the remainder of the pupping season until the end of April, if the Natural Resources and Culture Committee (NRCC) supports the recommendation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Law Enforcement.
In a letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders, NOAA's Office for Law Enforcement reported receiving more than 60 hotline calls since Jan. 1, 2006, to report marine mammal harassment. Between January and March of 2005, NOAA received 131 hotline calls.
NOAA has placed two signs on the beach to warn the public about approaching the seals, but the signs have "not prevented actions that could be considered harassment from occurring at the beach, particularly during pupping season," wrote Donald Masters, special agent in charge of NOAA's Office for Law Enforcement.
Harassment level B is defined as "any act or pursuit, torment or annoyance which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding or sheltering, but which does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild."
Closing the beach will also afford the city more time to devise a more permanent strategy for Children's Pool, Masters wrote.
Masters referenced beaches in Arroyo Laguna and Piedras Blancas that were closed due to concerns about harassment of elephant seals.
The city attorney's office was not available for comment on the legality of closing the beach.
District 1 City Councilman Scott Peters of La Jolla said he is willing to cooperate with NOAA and consider reinstalling the rope barrier during pupping season, but he does agree with closing the beach.
"NOAA has basically given us the indication that what we do about the Children's Pool is not a federal government decision but a local decision, but they've asked us to cooperate with them on this one issue," Peters said. "The rope during the pupping season is not an absolutely unreasonable request."
In August 2005, San Diego Superior Court ordered the city to return the beach to its 1941 condition as a calm pool of water for children, which would require dredging the sand to reduce fecal coliform bacteria levels. The city appealed the order to secure more time.
NRCC was scheduled to vote on the issue as its last agenda item on Wednesday, April 5, as the Village News went to press. City Council will likely vote on the issue on Monday, April 24. Public comment will be taken at both hearings.
NRCC meets in the council chambers at 202 C St., 12th floor. For information call (619) 533-6465, or e-mail NCapretz@sandiego.gov.