Newport Beach hopes to ride the wave of federal economic stimulus money to fund dredging in both Upper Newport Bay and Newport Harbor.
“The city is using all avenues for potential federal funding,” said Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle.
The House of Representatives’ version of President Obama’s multibillion-dollar stimulus package contains $2 billion in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers for construction projects, Daigle said.
The money would be geared toward projects that are “shovel-ready,” or that can be used to immediately stimulate the economy.
“If ever there were ever a shovel-ready project, the Back Bay is it,” she said.
Money for the ongoing dredging in Upper Newport Bay could run dry as early as June without additional federal funding, Daigle said.
City officials have estimated as much as $16 million is needed to complete the project.
The House version of the stimulus package also includes an additional $2 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for operations and maintenance, Daigle said.
The Corps could eyeball dredging the lower harbor with some of the money from the operations and maintenance pool, said Newport Beach Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff.
Some of the language in the stimulus bill passed by the House directs the Corps to use the money on maintenance projects that haven’t been funded in past years, Kiff said.
“The harbor is something that has always been overwhelmed by other priorities for the Corps of Engineers,” Daigle said.
Newport Harbor hasn’t been thoroughly dredged since the 1930s, and boaters often complain of running aground. Cleaning the harbor falls under federal jurisdiction, but the project is low on the list of priorities because government officials view the site as a pleasure harbor, not a working waterway.
Newport Beach is doing its own preliminary testing in the lower harbor for sediments and toxins to give the project a jump-start, Kiff said.
The city hopes doing its own water testing will make the project more enticing for the Army Corps of Engineers when it comes to funding, he said.
“We’re optimistic, but we’re not looking for the dredges just yet,” Kiff said.
BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.