creek, said county Public Works Director Kenneth R. Smith.
"The irony is that we cannot get in and remove any of this prior
to the storms coming up ... in the next two days, so as soon as we
are able to get in after the storms we will recommence work," Smith
Storms were expected to last through today, bringing as much as
three inches of rain, National Weather Service forecaster Stan
The county began working in mid-December on a $3.3 million project
to clear vegetation and sediment from a 2 1/2-mile stretch of the
creek between Michelson Drive and MacArthur Boulevard. County
supervisors declared the project an emergency after flood control
officials said the creek had become overgrown and choked with
sediment, creating a flood risk that could cause sewage to spill from
a nearby treatment plant into the Upper Newport Bay.
The county stopped work on the project Feb. 1 because it had cleared the area within its jurisdiction and was awaiting permits
from the Army Corps of Engineers and California Coastal Commission to
begin dredging sediment and clearing more plants and trees, Smith
For environmentalists who have been following the issue, one
immediate concern is that a storm could wash exposed silt into
Newport Bay, but the removal of valuable animal habitat that's
already taken place has been an ongoing issue, environmentalist Jack
"My concern has been the fact that the riparian corridor that
they've promised to save, actually there are significant areas of it
that have been denuded of any habitat," Skinner said. "They have just
aggressively taken out part of that corridor that has been important
The dredging and plant removal allowed by the new permits will
take about a month, but to complete the project the county needs to
submit plans for future maintenance of the creek and mitigation of
the animal habitat that has been removed, Smith said.
Getting approval from various regulatory agencies for the
mitigation and maintenance plans could take some time.
"Typically, that is measured in years rather than months," Smith