City Eyes ‘Piggy-Back’ Dredging of Harbor

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With work set to start on the Rhine Channel dredging project, Newport Beach city officials are looking at proceeding quickly to a limited dredging of the main Harbor, taking advantage of a potential cost saving by using the equipment that’s already in place.

Newport Harbor has not been dredged since it opened in the '30s.

The much-needed Lower Bay dredging project (the Harbor has not been dredged since its opening in 1936) has languished as the Corps of Engineers, the lead agency for the work, has been unable to get the funding necessary to undertake it. Dredging the entire Lower Bay is estimated to cost about $25 million.

The current year’s Corps budget has $2 million for the work, and the agency is going to bid soon for a limited dredging project. Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller has said the city could come up with about $2.5 million in funding from other sources to add to the Corps money and enlarge that project, removing 100,000 cubic yards of sediment unsuitable for ocean disposal and 100,000 cubic yards of clean sediment from key areas.

“The idea is to piggy-back on the Corps project and realize a cost saving and efficiency,” said Councilmember Leslie Daigle.

Dutra, the company doing the Rhine Channel work, is expected to bid on the Lower Bay work and would presumably be able to offer a savings because it would not have large set-up costs, as its equipment is already on site.

Removal of the material requiring special handling – a high priority – would be dependent on the Port of Long Beach agreeing to accept it for a fill project currently under way. The Rhine Channel material, which also requires special handling, is being accepted there at a huge savings to having to truck it overland to an inland disposal site.

If the port declines to take the material – it already rejected a previous request to dispose of 700,000 cubic yards as part of the larger Lower Bay project – the December project would focus on clean material at priority sites for clear navigation, Daigle said.

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