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Top Ten Stories of the 1990s

December 30, 1999

was first noticed in the 1980s, when three sediment basins were dredged

on the bay floor. This way, dirt and debris could settle at the bottom

and the tide could still flush the bay to provide its unique mix of fresh

and salt water.

In the mid-1990s, it was already time for the largest of those basins

to be dredged. But while the sediment continued to pile up, the money for

the project didn't. Getting the $5.4 million from the state for the


project was a years-long task -- one that didn't end until long after the

dredging had begun.

Then came El Nino. The heavy rain season of late 1997 and early 1998

brought an extra 200,000 cubic yards of muck and added another $2 million

to the project's price tag. County officials agreed to front the cost of

the dredging while they continued to lobby the state for funds.

In the summer of 1998, the state agreed to pay the $5.4 million and

the federal government approved the additional $2 million for the El

Nino-related damage.

El Nino-fueled storms also wreaked havoc on Back Bay Drive, closing

some portions of it for more than a year for major repair work.

Another aspect of the bay's woes during the 1990s was the Irvine Ranch

Water District's very unpopular plan to discharge its highly treated

waste water into the bay. The district got a permit for the project from

a regional water board, but an agreement with the city held the dumping

off for two years. In the meantime, Defend the Bay -- led by activist Bob

Caustin -- appealed every decision and took the water district to court

several times in an attempt to derail the plan.

The efforts finally paid off in the fall of 1998, when a Superior

Court judge overturned the district's permit. A new bay-dumping project

was developed and presented to the public, but has since been put on the

back burner.

Another highlight of the decade was the groundbreaking on the county's

interpretive center. The educational facility, which has taken years to

get off the ground, will help reduce the amount of habitat destruction

caused by tourists and enhance everyone's knowledge of the bay.

In the past decade, the estuary has been one of Newport-Mesa's most

treasured jewels. No doubt it will continue to be so in the next


4. ARB CAMPBELL AND TONY VILLA. New City Manager Kevin Murphy was barely

a year on the job, mopping up the aftermath of the Bob Dixon embezzlement

when the news got even worse. Longtime Police Chief Arb Campbell and his

right-hand man Capt. Tony Villa were the subjects of a sexual harassment

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