The City of Newport Beach applied to construct a confined aquatic disposal (CAD) site in Newport Harbor and perform beach replenishment in Newport Beach. Lower Newport Bay requires periodic maintenance dredging to remove sediment that accumulates over time and impedes navigation and full use of the harbor. A portion of the sediment to be dredged was determined unsuitable for open ocean disposal due to contamination and is proposed for placement into the CAD facility. Advocates, including Orange County Coastkeeper, Friends of Newport Harbor and Surfrider Foundation argued that the CAD should be denied based on four main issues: 1. The City wrongfully characterizes the unsuitable sediment as harmless; 2. The 1.0’ thick interim cap layer does not adequately account for bioturbation; 3. The City has not earnestly analyzed alternatives and, in particular, failed to consider (i) additional costs and/or (ii) a two-step process involving treatment; and 4. The City has not developed an adequate sediment monitoring plan. Despite these concerns, the Commission did not wish to push for innovative solutions to contaminated sediment and approved the CAD in an 8 to 1 vote.
Why You Should Care
The status quo of attempting to throw away or bury contamination is unacceptable and must be challenged. Burying “away” unsuitable sediment, without full environmental protections, is not the best solution. Other options such as treatment and non-aquatic disposal should be more carefully considered. For as painfully, repeatedly demonstrated on our precious planet, there is no such thing as “away.”
Negative Conservation Vote
Commissioner Linda Escalante supported the City’s proposal and commended the plan for local disposal of the contaminated sediment, rather than other solutions that may burden environmental justice communities. Commissioner Matt O’Malley opposed the project and pointed out that there were land based disposal alternatives available not located in or near EJ communities and that the City only took a cursory review of alternatives. He also pointed out that there is incomplete data on the sediment quality for the cap along with other concerns.
Orange County Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation, Friends of Newport Harbor, local residents
Coastal Development Permit
Approval with Conditions