Byline: Taylor Hill
NEWPORT BEACH — Since Newport Harbor’s lower bay dredging project took longer than expected to get started, the dredging team for the $7.5 million project set to remove nearly 500,000 cubic yards of sediment — 130,000 of which is classified as contaminated — has had to change their work schedules.
Originally set to dredge the harbor from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers and city of Newport Beach’s joint project has instead switched to a dredging timeline that will chase the best tides, allowing contracted dredging operator R.E. Staite Engineering to work any 12-hour period of time, day or night.
The new schedule has been put in place by Newport Beach Harbor Resources manager Chris Miller in an effort to meet the Port of Long Beach’s June 30 deadline for accepting sediment from Newport Harbor. The Port of Long Beach needs to fill its 1.2 million cubic yard Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) site to create more than 54 acres of land between two shipping terminals — to construct a new, modernized shipping terminal as part of its $980 million Middle Harbor Project.
The CAD is being filled up rapidly by outside projects looking for a cheaper alternative to dispose of contaminated sediment from their harbors. Newport Harbor’s lower bay, Marina del Rey’s channel entrance project, and Alamitos Bay’s marina rebuild project are all working to get polluted sediment from their dredging projects into the disposal site before it fills up.
The new timeline could mean some noisy nights in the harbor, as the two clamshell dredgers will be looking to fill the scows during the days’ — and nights’ — highest tides.
With Newport Harbor’s shallow spots, the scows require high tides in order to be filled to capacity without hitting the harbor floor.
Miller pointed out that the new timeline doesn’t mean dredging activity will be heard around the clock. “They won’t actually be working 24 hours a day, but they will be working 12-hour shifts at the time that they can get the most work done,” he said. But whether or not the dredgers will meet the June 30 deadline remains in question.
R.E. Staite’s vice president of business development Walt Jellison said that meeting the deadline would be a challenge, and he declined to comment on whether it was realistic to expect the 130,000 cubic yards of unsuitable-for-ocean-disposal material to be out of the harbor by June 30.
Once the Port of Long Beach-bound materials have been removed, the dredging program can go back to normal hours and work on dredging the remaining 370,000 cubic yards of clean sediment marked for ocean disposal.
So far, the dredging team has removed the unsuitable sediment from in front of the Balboa Bay Club, and it is carving out a narrow channel through the anchorage area off the eastern tip of Lido Isle — creating a pathway to the area in front of Via Lido Soud, where a large portion of the contaminated sediment awaits.
“The dredgers have to skim the tops off the high points in the anchorage area so that the dredge scows can get in and out of the Via Lido Soud area with a full load, without running aground,” Miller said.
While Palomar, the larger 8-cubic-yard clamshell dredge, works on Via Lido Soud, the 6-cubic-yard clamshell dredge named 180 will be working on cutting a channel between Harbor Island and Collins Island, to get to a contaminated area in front of Balboa Yacht Basin and the Promontory Bay entrance.
The other areas with material earmarked for the Port of Long Beach include locations in front of the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol docks and the Coast Guard docks.
In the course the dredging, mooring fields have been moved and boats relocated, with Miller acting as the go-to person for boat and mooring owners looking for information on whether they need to move their vessels.
South Mooring Co., which maintains the mooring fields for the city, has corralled the moorings together from the “D” mooring field — located in front of Balboa Yacht Basin — to allow the dredging equipment to pass easily. The free anchorage area located at the east end of Lido Isle has been relocated to the west end of the island by the turning basin for the remainder of the project.
Some sail racing markers have been moved to accommodate the dredging, as well — and Miller acknowledged the Association of Orange County Yacht Clubs’ flexibility in scheduling races around the project.
The 125-foot catamaran Cheyenne was also moved from its mooring in “F” field — along with seven other Newport Harbor YC moorings — to accommodated the dredging.
Boaters with slips near the dredging activities are advised to relocate their vessels while the dredging is going on in or around their area.
“The dredging cannot come within 15 feet of the end of the slip fingers, but it is always a good idea to move your boat from the area, just to avoid getting mud splashed on the boat,” Miller said.
The project marks the first time R.E. Staite Engineering has been contracted to work in Newport Harbor — although their equipment was used in both the Rhine Channel dredging project and Upper Newport Bay Project. “The project is going very well,” Jellison said. “It’s very well thought out, and it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for Newport to get this material up to Long Beach.”