Byline: Taylor Hill
NEWPORT BEACH — While the dredging scows and barges continue working on removing clean sediment from Newport Harbor, the long-awaited removal of thousands of cubic yards of sediment unsuitable for ocean disposal has been put on hold.
With nearly 75 percent of the contaminated sediment already removed during Phase 1 of dredging in Newport Harbor’s $8.5 million Lower Bay project, the remaining 25 percent, estimated at about 14,000 cubic yards, is now awaiting approval from the Port of Long Beach before it can be moved.
Long Beach’s $950 million Middle Harbor Project, which is planned to create one large, modern shipping terminal out of two outdate terminals, needs to fill approximately 54 acres of water area to create the new land needed for the site. With nearly 1.2 million cubic yards to fill, the port has been taking in sediment from outside sources — such as Newport Beach and Marina del Rey — to fill in the space, creating an opportunity for Southern California harbors to dispose of polluted sediment at the site without having to pay costly inland landfill fees.
The Port of Long Beach originally gave Newport Beach a June 30 deadline to get its dredging sediment to the approved fill area. But as the Confined Aquatic Disposal site got close to capacity, port officials called for a hold on all sediment coming into Long Beach.
“We’re currently in a holding pattern, as the port is letting the sediment settle and assessing the remaining disposal needs of all of the fill partners,” said Newport Beach Harbor Resources manager Chris Miller.
The Port of Long Beach has estimated about a month’s delay before allowing sediment to be dumped in the fill site again, but it has given Miller assurance that there will be space for the remainder of the contaminated sediment.
While the removal of the unsuitable sediment remains on hold, dredging contractor R.E. Staite Engineering has continued working on the harbor’s ocean-suitable material. It has removed 243,000 cubic yards of clean sediment and taken it to the approved LA-3 ocean disposal site, with an estimated 70,000 more cubic yards to be removed over the next month.
Once the clean sediment is out, Miller hopes the dredge team can move right back to the remaining 14,000 cubic yards of unsuitable-for-ocean-disposal material — pending the Port of Long Beach lifting its hold on sediment deliveries.
As the dredging continues, boaters, harbor users, homeowners and marine businesses have become accustomed to the dredging, steering clear of the large dredge scow and barges as they work their way through the multiple areas marked for dredging.
“Chad Carpenter, the operations manager at R.E. Staite, is a third generation family member of the company, and he has been great,” said Lido Isle Yacht Club Commodore Carter Ford at a July 10 Marine Committee meeting. “It’s really been nothing but cooperation, as we’ve gotten to know them.”
In May, a 24-hour dredging timeline was implemented to allow the dredging team to chase the best tides and try to get as much sediment to Long Beach as possible prior to the June 30 cutoff. With the new daylight dredging timeline in place, homeowners and liveaboards can rest easier. However, the large clamshell dredge named Palomar has been known to cause disturbances.
“Can we get them to spray some WD-40 on that equipment?” asked Balboa Island Ferry president Seymour Beek.
Miller explained that the noise is created by the steel drum brake system applied each time the clamshell opens, causing a metal-on-metal sound that can be heard some distance. “It’s just part of having industrial dredging equipment in the harbor,” Miller said.
Currently, R.E. Staite is dredging near the anchorage area between Lido Isle and Bay Island, and it is expected to work in the area until the end of July.
The area between Lido Isle and the Balboa Peninsula is about 98 percent complete. The entire area is scheduled for the Port of Long Beach landfill, so the team was rushing to dispose of as much as possible before the port closed the window, Miller said.
When the POLB window opens back up, the dredging team will come back for a couple days of cleanup work around the perimeter of the dredge footprint (along the edges of the docks), to finish up the area.
With the port in a holding pattern, the area near North Bayfront Drive on Balboa Island has been put on hold, as well. The dredgers can’t move the material near the entrance to Promontory Bay, as it is marked for the Port of Long Beach.
Mooring owners in D Mooring Field have remained displaced during the dredging, but they should be relocated once the contaminated sediment is removed.
As Phase 1 of the project nears completion, the Newport Beach City Council is scheduled to discuss Phase 2 at its July 24 meeting.
According to Miller, council members will be presented with a plan for an additional 207,600 cubic yards of clean sediment to be removed, along with 2,850 yards of unsuitable-for-ocean-disposal material. If plans are approved by the council, harbor areas scheduled for dredging that are the responsibility of the county (including the area in front of the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard docks) will require the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ approval.