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Santa Ana River Marsh dredging begins

Pipeline moving 'good quality sand' runs parallel to river through surf zone to about 1,000 feet offshore.

February 12, 2013|By Jill Cowan
  • Scott MacKenzie lifts his dog Bailey over pipeline that will be used to pump sand from the Santa Ana River Marsh to 1,000 feet offshore from 60th Street.
Scott MacKenzie lifts his dog Bailey over pipeline that… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Contractors for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have begun dredging sediment in the Santa Ana River Marsh in Newport Beach — some of which is being piped just offshore for beach replenishment, drawing concerns from residents.

The roughly $5-million project, which will restore channel depths to improve water circulation and tidal flushing necessary for maintaining the 92-acre salt marsh habitat, is expected to be complete by the end of March. The Army Corps project is federally funded.

A temporary pipeline is in place to funnel what officials call "good quality sand" about 1,000 feet offshore. This process, which began Monday and likely will continue until the week of Feb. 25, will help replenish beach sand, according to a city project update.

The pipeline runs parallel to the river from the marsh area, over the beach, through the surf zone and to the approved nearshore disposal location off 60th Street, the update said.

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Sediment that is deemed too silty and unsuitable for beach replenishment will be trucked to upland sites.

The marsh area is near the mouth of the Santa Ana River, upstream of West Coast Highway and east of the Greenville-Banning Channel levee.

Army Corps project Biologist Erin Jones said about 25,000 cubic yards of sediment will be pumped offshore to eventually make its way back to the beach. Meanwhile, she said, about 30,000 cubic yards of material will be reused in construction projects upland and another 20,000 cubic yards will be taken to a landfill.

The task was necessary as sediment and runoff have settled and increased stagnation since the marsh was first constructed about 20 years ago, Army Corps and city officials said.

Jones added that as shorelines erode, "That good quality sediment is really hard to come by to replenish the beaches."

But some neighbors echoed concerns that have arisen surrounding past Santa Ana River dredging projects — that the sediment, which could eventually come into contact with beachgoers, is unclean.

"I'm very disturbed.... Two-thirds [of the sediment] is going to be trucked upland and the other one-third is going into the water," beachfront resident Barbara de la Pena said. "Why should even one-third go there? It's like making a cake batter and one out of six eggs has salmonella."

De la Pena added that the Corps didn't adequately notify nearby residents of the work.

Longtime resident Richard Taylor agreed.

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