Dredging Barge Arrives for 10-Month Project to Clear Harbor of Silt

A long-awaited dredging barge pulled up to Shellmaker Island on Monday in preparation for a 10-month project to clear silt and mud from the Upper Newport Bay and Newport Harbor.

Since the last dredging project more than 10 years ago, the bay has been filling with silt, creating problems for boaters and wildlife.

Deputy City Manager Peggy Ducey said the city is trying to establish a fund to pay for future dredging projects. “We never want to get to this point again,” she said.

Boaters frequently run aground on the sandbars. The estuary’s bird and fish populations have dwindled in recent years as the mud slowly covered food supplies.

The muddying of the bay occurs naturally as dirt carried by the San Diego Creek fans out across the bottom of the bay where the two bodies of water meet. Development along the creek has speeded up the silt problems by increasing runoff. Ideally, officials say, the dirt should be cleaned out every couple of years.


In the last few years, the state was unable to set aside money for the dredging. Early this year, the city hired a lobbyist to secure funds for the city to begin the $5-million project. The state, which has responsibility for the bay, allocated $2 million. The county has said it will fund the remaining $3 million.

Barges are scheduled to haul the silt out of the bay and dump it at sea for the next 10 months.