I have been serving as the Chair of the Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee since becoming a Supervisor. Over the past few years we have been fretting over how to obtain the necessary funding to complete the dredging of the Upper Newport Bay. When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 appeared, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein advocated on our behalf. The project is now completed and we had a fun ceremony to commemorate the accomplishment.
The Senator made a comment about “earmarks.” Serving as Master of Ceremonies, I commented that it’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. And I forgave her. But, afterwards I was self-critiquing myself and aghast that I used the word “baby.” Now I need to ask forgiveness for the informality. As fate would have it, the OC Register captured the quote in its article below.
Upper Newport Bay restoration project celebrated
Text and photos by ANA VENEGAS
NEWPORT BEACH – U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, sat side by side Saturday to celebrate the completion of the 10-year, Upper Newport Bay Ecosystem Restoration Project, over the arresting backdrop of picturesque Upper Newport Bay.
Multiple government jurisdictions, private companies, individuals, and community organizations were thanked, but milllions of dollars was secured with Feinstein’s help.
"Part of this is an earmark," Feinstein said of her shepherding federal money for the project into legislation. "And I am very proud of this earmark."
"We didn’t hear the word earmark," said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a fiscally conservative Republican. "But you’re forgiven, baby!"
Dignitaries marked the project’s completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Upper Newport Bay now circulates better, runs deeper and better supports the biological diversity of one of the few remaining estuaries in Southern California. The project removed sediment accumulation that urbanization had accelerated. The restoration included the dredging of two sediment basins, restoration of channels and wetlands and the construction of the new Least Tern Island.
"The open ocean itself is dependent on coastal habitats," Park Ranger Lynn Miles said. "The coastal habitats are the most important of all, because essentially, an estuary is a bird nursery, an invertebrate nursery, and a fish nursery."
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
The Orange County Business Journal had an interesting article by Mathew Padilla, titled “El Toro Foes Ready To Take on Tunnel; Fight Already Won?” Provided below are the opening five paragraphs and those paragraphs where I’m included. The tunnel is a visionary proposal that is still being looked at; the major holdups are funding and the timeline involved in completing a 12-mile tunnel, even with crews working both ends to the middle.
The South County political machine that killed an El Toro airport is revving up to derail another ambitious public works proposal: a tunnel linking Orange County and the Inland Empire.
And, as with El Toro, the anti-tunnel effort could hit little resistance, if any at all.
Across South County, politicians have come out in force against the tunnel idea. Aliso Viejo’s mayor even called it "ludicrous." Behind the scenes, some of the activists and consultants who helped kill El Toro are taking aim at the tunnel.
At the same time, few heavy hitters from North County,the area most impacted by chronic congestion on the Riverside (91) Freeway,are championing the tunnel.
The situation has the flavor of history repeating. The county’s bid to turn the former El Toro Marine base into an airport was overwhelmed by South County opposition and Irvine’s competing proposal for a big park,actually a series of parks with homes and businesses.
The tunnel’s most prominent proponent could be John Moorlach, the county’s treasurer-tax collector and a candidate for supervisor for Huntington Beach and other areas.
"I am definitely pro-tunnel," Moorlach said. "It is something that needs to be fully explored and pursued."
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California wants a tunnel to bring water from Lake Mathews to South County, Moorlach said. It makes sense to combine that with traffic and share costs, he said.
"We have to get employees to south and central OC," Moorlach said.
Other options are unrealistic, according to Moorlach. A second deck on the Riverside Freeway isn’t feasible because of earthquakes and construction would be too disruptive, he said. Expanding Ortega Highway, which runs from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore, isn’t realistic from an environmental perspective, he said.
"Once I’m a supervisor, then I’m going to do everything I can" in support of the tunnel, Moorlach said.
There are signs of support for a tunnel, according to Moorlach.
Two congressmen and a former colleague,Gary Miller, Ken Calvert and Christopher Cox,got millions of dollars to study the issue. That shows they could back a tunnel, according to Moorlach.
This was the day after the November 7th election and the articles streamed from far and wide on Measures G and H. Of course, it is not fun to lose. Measure G was heavily funded by the medical community. In the interviews that occurred election night I emphasized the phrase, “Forgive us this day our debts.” Chris Reed and William Heisel of the OC Register provided their perspective in two articles, the first was “County is urged to abide by H vote – HEALTH: The measure dictates the use of tobacco settlement money, but does not take effect until July.”
County Treasurer John Moorlach, who drafted Measure G, said he’s not sure how the board will react to the vote. None of the supervisors could be reached for comment late Tuesday. Moorlach still thinks the money would be better spent on debt relief and hopes the board will follow his advice for the current year’s windfall.
“We could have accomplished more for health care if we could have gotten this bankruptcy debt paid off,” Moorlach said. “We’re paying $50 million a year in interest for nothing, and that chokes out so much.”
The second article was “Measure H looks to win over Measure G – HEALTH: The apparent victor dedicates tobacco money to health care.”
Moorlach said he was glad voters had a choice.
“Orange County historically is very conservative, so a lot of voters said we need to pay down this debt,” Moorlach said. “But it’s hard to win when you have the drumbeat of television, ads and mailers like you’ve had on the other side.”
David Reyes of the LA Times had his perspective in “Health Care-Backed Tobacco Plan Pulling Ahead – The initiative that gives 80% of funds to medical needs has an early lead over proposal sponsored by county.”
But without final figures, Measure G supporters were reluctant to concede defeat.
“I still want to give it more time,” Moorlach said. “At the very least, we’ve shown that there is strong support for debt retirement. At least we’ve given voters some dialogue in the discussion.”
The lead editorial of the OC Register was titled “Some messages were loud and clear—State voters reject new centralized programs; O.C. voters deny firefighters sales-tax revenue.” It was the day after the November 8th election and the observations were being published, including a trouncing of Measure D. Here is one paragraph:
For instance, the fire authority just built a $50 million headquarters. And the average firefighter’s salary, overtime and benefits is $175,000 a year. Treasurer John Moorlach thought those numbers contributed significantly to the loss.
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