The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to contribute $2.5 million toward the Lower Newport Bay Dredging Project.
The money will be loaned out from the general city fund to the tidelands fund, according to Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller.
The city is taking advantage of a unique, low-cost opportunity to dispose of 80 percent of unsuitable seabed material at the Port of Long Beach, Miller said.
This is a rare opportunity, Councilmember Ed Selich agreed. These permits are difficult to get, the corps is going to manage it, it’s a good price and the port of Long Beach is standing by, he said.
The city funds will cover all of the unsuitable environmental material and critical navigation components of the project.
The project, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will cover areas around Lido Isle, Balboa Island and other channels in the bay.
The total cost of the Lower Bay project is approximately $7.5 million, Miller said.
There is $2.4 million assured funding from federal government, he added, but the lowest bid from dredging contractors came in at about $2.8 million, leaving a $475,000 gap that needs to be filled before the contract is awarded. The Corps is currently working on getting the remaining needed funds, Miller said.
That means $5.1 million is needed to complete the corps permitted and other components.
Because there are approximately $675,000 worth of county tidelands located in the project area, Miller said, the city has reached out to county officials for funds.
“They’re [the county] very excited about this and it looks positive that they’ll be able to help us with the funding that is in their county tidelands and their responsibility to maintain,” Miller said.
In addition to the $2.5 million from the city, Miller said they are looking for $1.5 million to $2 million in private donations to fill up the rest of the cost.
Councilmember Leslie Daigle commented that opening the project up for private donations is a good idea and she was confident there were community members who would step up and contribute.
Councilmember Steve Rosansky noted that this project is in line with the promises made to the boating and harbor communities that the money from the fees that were raised last year would be put back into the harbor and services would be improved.
“This is evidence of that,” Rosansky said. The public can see that the money is getting put to good use, he added.
The project is shooting for at least minus 11 mean lower low water (MLLW) depth in most the bay.
Miller also talked about future dredging projects.
“I think the Tidelands Management Committee has expressed a deep interest to continue on with the maintenance dredging in our harbor at a prescribed interval of time,” Miller said. “So we don’t have the big project we have today.”
The port of Long Beach has set a March deadline to dispose of the unsuitable sediment. The entire project is expected to be completed by June of next year.
“The harbor is one of our most significant economic resources,” Councilmember Keith Curry said, “and it’s up to us, as stewards of the harbor, to make sure that it continues to be the resource that it is for boaters and people who come to visit our community, and for residents.”