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Upper Bay dredging troubles Lagunans

Chairman of Clean Water Now! Coalition says contaminants from dump site may affect marine life in protected Laguna water.

October 22, 2007|By Josh Aden

Tons of sediment from the Upper Newport Bay dredging project are being dumped off Crystal Cove and some Laguna Beach residents are concerned about the environmental impact it may have on protected Laguna waters.

Roger Butow, founder and chairman of the Clean Water Now! Coalition, is worried about possible contaminants and is aiming to get the dredging project suspended until Laguna residents have a chance to weigh in on the issue.

“I want a pollution intervention right now,” Butow said.

The dump site is an approved U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site that is near the border of an EPA district border that separates the two coastal cities.

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Newport residents were informed of the dumping, as well as the dredging of the Upper Newport Bay.

Laguna, however, is not technically in the dump site’s district and was left out of the loop.

Butow petitioned the Laguna Beach City Council to take up the issue and hopes the city will ask a judge to stop the dredging.

Failing that, he hopes to enlist a wealthy Lagunan to take the issue up in court and demand a cease and desist order.

Newport Beach Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff doesn’t think stopping the dredging halfway through will please Newport citizens who live near the bay.

“The residents around here are looking forward to an end to this,” Kiff said.

If Butow succeeds in halting the dredging, he will stop an environmental preservation project to stop the bay from filling in.

The Upper Newport Bay is a saltwater estuary fed mostly by San Diego Creek. The space is a protected ecological reserve. It’s one of the last remaining natural estuary systems in Southern California.

As is common of estuaries, silt and sediment collect in the bay as it’s pushed downstream toward the ocean.

The deposits have compiled over a span of decades, making the bay ever shallower.

“If we didn’t remove sediment from the Upper Bay, it would turn into a meadow instead of being one of Southern California’s last remaining natural estuaries,” Kiff said.

The clamshell dredges pulling out the tons of sediment are also digging channels in the bay to give the future silt a place to be out of the way.

This will push subsequent dredging projects further into the future.

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