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Newport Harbor’s newest and largest public dock is now open for recreational boaters.

On Friday, March 29 I had the pleasure of joining Newport Beach City Council members along with officials from the County of Orange, the Irvine Company and State Assembly to celebrate the Balboa Marina Public Pier grand opening.

The 8th Annual Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival will return to the Balboa Yacht Club, June 7 – 8, 2024 with more than 40 wooden vessels of all sizes on display, and a collection of master artisans and craftsmen at work.

This year’s festival theme is “The Art & Craft of the Wooden Boat” in celebration of the creative artistry, intricate craftsmanship, and timeless beauty of wooden boats.
“Event guests will be able to immerse themselves in the centuries-old artform of wooden boat building, and the fine woodworking and artistic details that adorn the boats,” said event chair Stephen Paljieg. “This year’s event will be bigger and better than ever. Its theme captures the essence of the passion and artistry behind these magnificent, one-of-a-kind watercrafts and the inclusion of the master craftsmen who build and keep them in ‘Bristol condition’ takes it to a whole new level of experience.”

The fires in Maui and Hurricane Idalia in Florida serve as recent reminders that disasters can strike at any time. Throughout September, which has been designated as National Preparedness Month, the City of Newport Beach will highlight some of our emergency preparedness tools and practices, along with educational resources for residents to become better prepared.

If you are new to emergency planning, or could use a refresher, a great place to start is the “Newport Beach Ready” Emergency Preparedness Guide produced by our Fire Department. The guide contains critical information on water and food storage, building an emergency kit, evacuation checklists, basic first aid, animal preparedness, and tips on what to do in specific events.

Newport Beach City Council members, joined by state and county elected representatives, held a ceremonial groundbreaking event on Friday, Sept. 15 to kick off construction of the Newport Bay Trash Interceptor, a sustainably powered system to collect floating trash before it enters the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, Newport Harbor and beaches.

Newport Harbor Pirates Cove

Newport Beach, known for its pristine beaches and picturesque harbors, has long been committed to preserving its natural resources. To further increase the City’s ability to monitor and maintain water quality in Newport Harbor, the City’s Harbor Department recently deployed two state-of-the-art water quality sensing buoys, or DataPods, in the harbor.

The Newport Bay Conservancy is hosting Coastal Cleanup Day at Upper Newport Bay on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Volunteers will meet at a dozen different mini-cleanup day sites around the 11-mile bay including the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, Newport Aquatic Center, Big Canyon, Vista Point, Jamboree Bridge, etc. Exact meeting location will be announced and sent to everyone (group leaders) prior to Sept. 21.

More than 70 boats competed in the 87th Annual Flight of Newport Beach, presented by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Balboa Yacht Club.

Initially known as the Flight of the Snowbirds and later the Flight of the Lasers, the Flight of Newport had three different classes of boats racing to circumvent Newport Harbor.

“I am pleased to report that a long-awaited water quality project, the Newport Bay Trash Interceptor, was approved this week by the Newport Beach City Council.”

On Tuesday, July 11, the City Council awarded a $3.9 million construction contract to Brea-based Jilk Heavy Construction, Inc. We expect to break ground this fall and begin operations in 2024.

The Trash Interceptor is a sustainably powered, floating trash and debris collection system that will be built in the San Diego Creek between the Jamboree Road Bridge and MacArthur Boulevard Bridge, upstream from the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.

If you’re out and about on Newport Harbor on Sunday afternoon, July 16, you may see dozens of sailboats racing around the harbor. Give them plenty of room and cheer them on—it’s the 87th Annual Flight of Newport Beach, presented by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Balboa Yacht Club.

It’s hard to believe that Thursday, July 6 will mark nine years since the passing of Newport Beach Lifeguard Ben Carlson. He was special to so many people, as his unexpected and untimely death would prove.

On that Sunday, in 2014, shortly after 5 p.m., a Newport Beach rescue boat identified a swimmer in distress off 16th Street. The surf at the time was six-to-eight feet.

Ben, as everyone knew, entered the water to make that rescue and swam to the man, making contact, before they were both hit by an unexpected large wave. The swimmer Ben was attempting to rescue was successfully pulled from the water, but Ben was not.

Yachts in beautiful Newport Harbor

Newport Beach scored high marks during the summer season in the 33rd Annual Heal the Bay Beach Report Card, released Wednesday, June 14.

Of the 36 Newport Beach bay and ocean testing sites listed in the report, 32 earned an A or A+ during the summer season, when the beaches are most frequented. Four sites earned a B grade. Heal the Bay’s annual report measures bacterial pollution for more than 700 West Coast beaches, from Washington to Baja, ranking them and grading their water quality from A to F.

Balboa Island Docks & Boats

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) has halted the dredging of Lower Newport Bay and construction authorization for the City of Newport Beach’s (the city’s) Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) facility. The Corps put things on hold after Orange County Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper) filed a lawsuit challenging their failure to fully analyze actions possibly violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA).

So, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Burn off over mooring field, Newport harbor, California

On May 23, the City Council approved a pilot program to change the harbor mooring fields configuration and approved changes to the Harbor Code to accommodate the proposed pilot program and the long-term plan for all the moorings in the harbor.

Speak Up Newport is hosting a meeting on Wednesday, June 14 to discuss the mooring plan with guest speaker Bill Kenney, the former Harbor Commission Chair. He will describe the Harbor Commission’s Open Water Initiative and the reasons for the changes to the mooring fields.
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.

City Council this week unanimously approved a pilot project, called the open water initiative, related to mooring field design.

Councilmembers voted 7-0 on Tuesday (May 23) in support of the ordinance that would amend Title 17 (the city’s harbor code) related to mooring standards and permits. The approved action, stemming from Harbor Commission recommendations, will reconfigure mooring field C, which sits between Bay Island and the Balboa Peninsula ferry station.

March showers have given way to April flowers. The recent storms left in their wake perfect conditions throughout Southern California for thriving vegetation – a super bloom resulting in lush landscapes carpeted with abundant wildflowers.

The storms also replenished many of our major water supply reservoirs and significantly refilled our groundwater basin, resulting in higher-than-average levels compared to many years when these resources remained in limited supply indefinitely.

These same storms have another, less favorable effect on our community, as Newport Beach is at the end of the water “pipe” when it comes to trash and debris flow.

Seymour Beek

Newport Beach has a handful of iconic attractions that have stood the test of time: The Newport Pier, which replaced the original McFadden Wharf (1888-1939) and is registered as a California Historical Landmark; the Balboa Pavilion, which opened on July 1, 1906 and is the city’s oldest standing building; and the Balboa Island Ferry, which went into service in 1919 to bring cars and passengers across 900 feet of water between Balboa Island and the Balboa Fun Zone.

Newport Harbor from above

All permits are in place for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge channels in Lower Newport Bay and bury any contaminated sediment in a massive underwater pit at the heart of Newport Harbor.

But the project is now facing multiple legal challenges that could slow it down or thwart it entirely, as resident and environmental groups that tried to block those permits cite ongoing concerns over risks to marine life and bay contamination.

Representatives from the Surfrider Foundation North Orange County Chapter recently presented the City with a generous donation of $12,415 toward the purchase and installation of a new marine trash skimmer for Newport Harbor. The donation will be used to offset the $18,000 cost of a new trash skimmer that will replace an older, broken skimmer located at the Rhine Wharf public dock.

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.