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Bay project funds can last through October

There should be enough funds to finish one phase of the dredging, officials say. The others’ budgets remain in question.

August 21, 2008|By Daniel Tedford

County officials believe enough money is available to complete the first phase of the Upper Newport Bay dredging project to meet depth standards, Newport Beach city officials said. But how the project will be funded after that is still up in the air.

Representatives of the major property owners that affect Upper Newport Bay met Wednesday to discuss the bay’s dredging project that needs more dollars to stay afloat.

The Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee listened to presentations on the Upper Newport Bay ecosystem restoration — or dredging — and how long current funds will last to support the project.

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“We are trying to balance out what we have already spent and see how much we have left to be able to award some additional work,” Orange County coastal engineer Susan Brodeur said.

The main concern is whether the county can keep contractors working until more funds come through to prevent them from having to pay more money to bring contractors back at a later date.

About $20 million is still needed to finish the full project. The first phase is expected to be completed in September.

At the meeting, county officials appeared “confident” that current funds should last them through October, allowing them to reach first-phase dredging depths to meet standards and avoid any potential fines, Newport Beach City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said.

But after that, any financial assistance may be dependent on grants, as other cities and property owners didn’t seem interested in donating dollars to keep the project going, Gardner said.

“I did float the idea of going back and making sure there was money in the budget, and I got a lot of blank looks,” Gardner said. “There didn’t seem to be the sense of urgency [from the county] to ask for money.”

The meeting did demonstrate a strong sense of engagement from the surrounding areas and the desire for a “strategic plan,” Gardner said. Meeting the depth goals of the dredging relieved a major concern, she said.

“I didn’t see anybody pulling out their checkbook, but I did see people wanting to find solutions,” Gardner said.


DANIEL TEDFORD may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at daniel.tedford@latimes.com.

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