Newport Beach votes to construct a water wheel in Upper Newport Bay

Nearly $2 million was raised to bring harbor’s inaugural water wheel to fruition; construction is scheduled to begin in spring or summer of 2021.

NEWPORT BEACH — Newport Beach’s harbor and bay will soon see a water wheel scourging the area of trash and debris after the local City Council unanimously passed the Newport Bay Water Wheel Project, Sept. 25.

The water wheel, a project that has been in the works for some time, was a concept spearheaded by Billy Dutton and Mark Ward of Help Your Harbor. Debris in the upper bay area has long been a source of trouble in Newport Beach Harbor, which prompted this solution to collect the trash and prevent it from ending up on the beaches.

The Ocean Protection Council awarded a grant for the amount of $1.68 million and Council member Diane Dixon praised staff for seeking the grant. Ward also added Patagonia, a retail outlet for outdoor clothing and gear, donated $10,000 to get the ball rolling for the water wheel.  Several other sponsors of Help Your Harbor, including Surfrider Foundation, Duffy Electric Boats and Balboa Bay Club, have participated in harbor clean-up events and have supported the water wheel.

Between local environmentalists, the grant and city budget, the project has been funded for $1.7 million. In the staff report, it reads: “The Newport Bay Water Wheel Project is recommended for funding by the Ocean Protection Council’s Proposition 1 Grant of $1,6800,000. A $12,000 contribution from Help Your Harbor has already been received along with a city budget of $8,000 to fund the environmental portion of this work. It is anticipated the OPC grant funds will cover the design and construction cost of the project for a total project budget of $1,700,000.”

Ward stated the Help Your Harbor program has collected 40,000 pounds of trash since its conception. After the storm season, the debris that gathers in Newport Bay can be especially bad.

Plans for the new water wheel was modeled after a similar design used in Baltimore, Maryland – also known as “Mr. Water Wheel.”

Mr. Water Wheel is powered by currents from Jones Fall River and backup solar panels keep the wheel moving when the currents are too slow. In the illustration from a PowerPoint presentation, rotating forks lift the trash onto a conveyor belt dumping the waste into a bin. When the trash bin is full, a city-operated boat collects the garbage.

Newport Harbor’s water wheel would operate in Upper Newport Bay near Jamboree Road Bridge and would potentially capture trash that flowed in from inland Orange County before entering Newport Harbor or the ocean.

Preliminary engineering and environmental review have already taken place. Construction is slated to begin during the spring or summer of 2021.

Mayor Marshall Duffield and Council member Brad Avery, both of whom have been avid supporters of the water wheel, were not in attendance.

For more information about cleanup program Help Your Harbor, visit the website at helpyourharbor.com.

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