The state Legislature has approved a one-time payment of $200,000 for future dredging in Upper Newport Bay but rejected a far more ambitious proposal to put $400,000 each year into a fund to help pay the huge costs of the work.
The measure, which now goes to the governor for consideration, originally sought to provide a permanent financing source for the dredging, which is needed every five to 10 years.
But the bill by state Senate Republican leader Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) was altered in the Assembly late Monday.
Democrats slashed the proposal for an annual funding source and replaced it with a single payment of $200,000 before approving the measure.
Dredging work is currently underway in the upper bay at a cost of $7.4 million.
Funding for the project was included in the state budget approved last month, but the additional $200,000 can provide a measure of help in the future.
Johnson said that next year he will again seek a permanent funding source for the dredging, which is needed to clear silt out of the upper bay to maintain a healthy habitat for the scores of bird and fish species that make it their home.
"Every little bit of money helps," said environmentalist Frank Robinson, but "$200,000 doesn't do very much."
"I always thought $400,000 a year would be a little small," said the 80-year-old Robinson, of the Friends of Newport Bay, who has been fighting development in the upper bay for 35 years.
"It's just like a street. You have to maintain it. That silt just keeps coming down there," he said.
"With the proper maintenance, it can be a wonderful resource that we can all enjoy," Robinson said. "Without that, you don't have an upper bay. It just fills up."