Balboa Island’s Grand Canal to get the big scoop this winter

An employee with Associated Pacific Constructors uses surveying equipment to monitor dredging in the southern run of the Grand Canal in 2016.
(File Photo)

The Grand Canal is getting dredged again.

The Newport Beach City Council agreed Tuesday to spend up to about $1.5 million to dredge the northerly stretch of the narrow waterway that separates Balboa Island’s main and “little” sides — plus the small channel around the Harbor Island bridge to Balboa Island’s northwest.

Associated Pacific Constructors Inc. of Morro Bay will get the $1.38-million contract. The city will also set aside about $76,000 for contingency and incidentals, bringing the total budget to just under $1.5 million.

It was the city’s second attempt in two months to contract out the project. In August, staff told the council it wanted to seek new bids after the only proposal it received — also from Associated Pacific Constructors — came in about $400,000 over the $990,000 estimate.

The earlier bid was about $1.39 million, nearly the same as the current offer, but it didn’t include the Harbor Island work.

The Harbor Island dredging reflects about $104,000 of the total current bid.

Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield noted that the stretch, already only accessible to smaller boats, is becoming unnavigable.

The city, again with Associated Pacific Constructors, completed its dredge of the southerly portion of Grand Canal between South Bay Front and the Park Avenue bridge in February 2017. But the longer northern section of the canal, from the Park Avenue bridge to North Bay Front, hasn’t been dredged since 1999.

Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller said the council could choose to dredge the full proposed package, only dredge the Grand Canal or pass again, as it isn’t a “critically urgent” project.

But, he said, sediment has built up toward the center of the channel, and neighbors have complained about the smell during low tide. Also, the market for smaller dredging projects is limited, making lower bids unlikely, he added.

The canal is about 95 feet wide and 1,485 feet long, with the northern run covering about two-thirds of the length — and this tight space also poses physical challenges.

Associated Pacific Constructors told the city in August that restrictive access, multiple handling of the dredged material and the hauling distance from the bridge to North Bay Front led to the higher-than-anticipated price tag.

The company said a looser work window would also benefit the tidal-dependent project.

It’s unclear when work will start. However, Miller told the council that tidal flow is more favorable for dredging from October to May, when higher tides arrive during daylight hours.

“You can only get in when the tide’s in there, so they get two cycles a day,” added Public Works Director Dave Webb. “So if we give them a wider window that gives them more work time, which brings the cost down and actually speeds up the project.”

The council voted 6-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill absent, to go ahead with the Grand Canal-Harbor Island combination, with the daily work window from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Miller said the city commonly gives dredging projects expanded work hours.

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