Commentary: Feds, city came together on dredging project

February 22, 2013|By Leslie Daigle

Re. "Newport completes lower-bay dredging," Feb. 15:

An article by reporter Jill Cowan in the Daily Pilot highlights the completion of the Lower Bay (Newport Harbor) dredging.

As I stated in the article, it was a "long, hard road to complete the big dredge." The assistance of our federal and state partners helped achieve a breakthrough.

There are few ways state and federal government dollars come directly back into our community. The Upper Newport Bay restoration project received $50 million in federal and state funds for completion prior to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considering work on the Lower Bay. City Manager Dave Kiff and I went to Washington, D.C., to make the case for completion of the Upper Bay project.


The $17.3 million in federal funds noted by Cowan came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The Upper Bay project was already an authorized and signed federal project whose work was performed by a private-sector contractor contributing to state and local job creation and tax revenues. Had the project not received ARRA funds, the federal government was prepared to pull the plug on the project and deem it "partially complete." The County of Orange, under the leadership of our local supervisor, John Moorlach, did an outstanding job as lead agency on the Upper Bay project.

Following completion of the Upper Bay project, the idea was to shift momentum to the Lower Bay. Easier said than done.

For more than 50 years, the dredging of Newport Harbor languished. The project failed to advance beyond the redline for funding. To begin this project, both political support (elected representatives) and agency support is necessary.

The federal government thinks about wars, Social Security, major national issues. Newport Beach is not on its radar screen, but fortunately we are a community of self-starters. A major reason for our historical failure was the absence of a convincing case to the Feds. I worked to develop a message that would help lift this project up the federal priority list. Kiff and I made several trips to Washington, D.C., and shared with U.S. representatives and brass at the Corps of Engineers why this project had merit:

1.) Have a U.S. Coast Guard station.

2.) Gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

3.) Part of a state system of harbors.

4.) Balances regional recreational load.

5.) An environmental clean up.

6.) It's a federal and local partnership.

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