Newport Beach City Manager Update: Rainstorm Cleanup

By Guest Contributor Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager – January 15, 2023

Source: Newport Beach Independent Newport Beach City Manager Update: Rainstorm Cleanup, General Plan Committee

Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager

Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager

This week I’d like to recognize critical, often unsung members of our City team who perform a vital service during rainstorms: the Utilities Department crews that pump storm water and operate the tide valves on Balboa Island and the Peninsula.

The valves, which were built in the 1970s to replace a system from the early 1900s, are necessary to prevent flooding in low-lying areas. They are manually operated, and need to be closed during high tides to prevent seawater from flooding the streets. Once the tide recedes, crews reopen the valves — nearly 90 in total — to allow water to flow from streets to the bay.

When high tides require the valves to be closed during a rainfall, the storm water cannot drain and must be pumped manually. In anticipation, as many as 30 Utilities team members, along with assistance from Public Works, mobilize with trucks and pumps. All of the pumps are tested, fueled, cleaned and ready to go before every rain event. In the past several weeks, the team has deployed as early as 3 a.m., including weekends and Christmas Day (yes, Christmas Day), to pump water from the drains and streets.

The City is developing a modern flood-control system for Balboa Island that will utilize automatic valves and help reduce the need for manual pumping in the future. In the meantime, please join me in thanking our Utilities and Public Works team members who perform this vital service for our community.

Keeping Our Waterways Clean Before, After Storms

One of the most visible impacts of heavy rainfall is the amount of trash and debris that collects in the Back Bay, Newport Harbor, and along our beaches between the Santa Ana River and Newport Pier.

Geography presents an ongoing challenge. Newport Beach sits at the terminus of two urban rivers, the Santa Ana River in West Newport, and the Bonita Creek/San Diego Creek outlet that flows into the Back Bay, Newport Harbor, and ultimately the ocean. During and after a heavy rainstorm, a tremendous amount of trash and debris accumulates along miles of river channel and ends up in Newport Beach. In some years, the City removes as much as 800 tons of trash and debris from beaches.

The City, along with public and private partners, has a number of projects to capture trash before it enters the bay and ocean:

  • A debris boom in Upper Newport Bay collects about 80 tons of trash every year.
  • Forty storm drains throughout the city are equipped with a capture system called continuous deflective separators, or CDS. These units, which cost between $250,000 and $1 million each, capture 20-30 tons of trash a year collectively.
  • More than 400 trash screens are installed in catch basin openings throughout the city, which capture an additional 2 to 3 tons a year in all.
  • Newport Beach partnered with Santa Ana and other neighboring cities on a $9 million trash collection system in the Santa Ana Delhi Channel, which collects trash that would otherwise enter Upper Newport Bay.
  • Eight skimmers are deployed throughout Newport Harbor that, together, collect 7 to 8 tons of trash a year.
  • Regular street sweeping helps prevent local trash and urban runoff (oil, chemicals) from entering the waterways.
  • The City is working on a project to install a $3 million, solar and water-powered trash interceptor in San Diego Creek that will collect hundreds of tons of trash a year before it enters Upper Newport Bay.

However, these preventive measures are not enough to collect all the litter and debris that washes down the rivers during a storm. The City’s Public Works beach maintenance crews perform the bulk of the cleanup along the coastline, using heavy equipment for larger debris and picking up smaller pieces by hand. Our Harbor Department staff also cleans up floating debris in the bay after storm events.

Our partners at Trellis International take on cleanup projects throughout the city every month, and have focused on the beaches after the recent storms. We can also thank volunteer organizations, including Surfrider and Help Your Harbor, for organizing beach cleanup events that contribute greatly to keeping our beaches clean. If you would like to get involved in a beach cleanup, as an individual or group, please visit the City’s website at

Source: Newport Beach Independent Newport Beach City Manager Update: Rainstorm Cleanup, General Plan Committee