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$17M, four years later, dredging is done

It took four years, $17 million and some pestering of the federal government by Newport Beach officials, but the dredging of Upper Newport Bay is done.

In his monthly update to the Harbor Commission last month, Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller told the group that more than 1.8 million cubic yards of sediment had been moved and the contractor would be demobilized by Oct. 27.


The Back Bay project, which started in 2006, intended to improve the natural habitat of some endangered birds and reduce the sediment flow into the harbor.

Dredging vessels traveled under the Pacific Coast Highway bridge 5,200 times during the project, Miller said. They dug out two basins to filter out sediment from the bay’s 750-acre watershed, which stretches into Irvine, and deepened and widened the channels around the bay’s islands to protect the endangered California least tern and Belding’s Savannah sparrow from predators.


Money for the project came from President Obama’s $787-billion stimulus package passed in February 2009 thanks to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who requested it at the urging of local officials.

The city’s focus now turns on possible dredging of the Rhine Channel, complicated by the toxicity of the sediment and where to dispose of it and dredging the rest of the harbor.

Both projects are in a bit of a waiting game. The city is waiting for the government to pass its budget to see whether it will get money for the harbor project.

Officials also await the Port of Long Beach’s approval to dispose of the Rhine Channel sediment there.