In what city officials are calling a potential win-win for Newport Beach, the Port of Long Beach will begin accepting applications next month from cities looking to dump underwater sediment into that port as part of its expansion project.
"If we don't get into this window the Port of Long Beach is opening for us, it's going to hurt us financially," said Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller. "It's a win-win. We're not taking a risk. We have nothing to lose."
In what may prove to be a fortunate coincidence for Newport Beach, the Port of Long Beach is undergoing its $750 million Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project that would connect two shipping terminals divided by water into one giant wharf at the same time that Newport Beach is dredging its harbor.
Beginning July 1, the port will accept applications from cities looking to dump sediment into the 54-acre water channel that needs to be filled. Contaminated sediment, which is less toxic than hazardous sediment, is acceptable.
"I feel really good about the city's position. We'll be shovel-ready by the time the Port of Long Beach would accept the sediment," Miller said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is already dredging the lower bay for boat travel, and the city is looking at dredging the Rhine Channel. In each project, the Port of Long Beach project could prove to be a easier, and far less costly, alternative for disposing of all the sediment, Miller said.
Newport Beach is looking to dump about 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the Rhine Channel and about a third of the lower bay's 1.4 million cubic yards of sediment. The rest of the lower bay's sediment will likely be dumped off the coast, where federal standards allow it to be dropped if it's clean enough.
The city hopes to dump the more toxic sediment into Long Beach's port because if it doesn't, other options take longer and cost more, officials said.
If the port doesn't take the harbor's sediment, they have few options. The first option is Confined Aquatic Disposal, where a large hole is dug in the harbor and the dirty sediment is dropped in then covered with clean soil, trapping it.
The second is a land-based disposal, where the sediment is left to dry, then shipped off, would also be an option, Miller said. Each choice would force the city to spend millions it wouldn't have to if the Port of Long Beach accepts its application, Miller said.
Long Beach is looking to receive up to 2.6 million cubic yards of sediment from other ports and harbors. The sediment would begin filling the channel early next year.