Revolutionary Newport Beach Trash-Catching Water Wheel Project Commences in Upper Newport Bay – Unveiling a Cleaner Orange County

Newport Beach Mayor Noah Blom unveiled an image of the new trash-collecting water wheel that will be operational in the Upper Newport Bay by the end of next year. This groundbreaking project aims to inspire other cities to take action in cleaning up Orange County’s waterways.

The innovative, partially solar-powered water wheel is designed to capture and prevent trash from reaching the bay, harbor, and ocean by collecting debris from upstream communities along the San Diego Creek and Santa Ana Delhi Channel.

Inspired by the success of the Mr. Trash Family’s water wheels in Baltimore Harbor, which have collected over 2,000 tons of trash since 2014, this project combines old and new technology. It utilizes the power of water and sunlight to efficiently collect litter and debris.

The ecologically sensitive bay could potentially collect up to 80% of the trash and debris. With annual estimates of 100 to 500 tons of debris washed into Upper Newport Bay due to rainfall, the need for this collection system is evident.

The project has a budget of $5.5 million, with a construction contract awarded to a Brea firm. The funding comes from local, state, and federal agencies. The water wheel system is expected to be operational by December 2024.

Mayor Blom expressed his hope that Newport Beach’s initiative will serve as a statewide example. He emphasized the city’s commitment to improving water quality in the bays and harbor, stating, “We’ll use who we are to be the first and hopefully inspire others.”

During a ceremonial groundbreaking, the official image of the water wheel was revealed. Sporting a mossy green color with a blue Newport Beach sail, the wheel will be located along the east side of the Jamboree Bridge. The event was attended by councilmembers, county and state officials, and environmentalists who participated in a symbolic dirt scooping gesture.

Councilmember Will O’Neill credited Councilman Duffy Duffield for his instrumental role in championing this project. O’Neill praised the city’s dedication to water quality and described the trash wheel collector as one of his favorite city projects. He emphasized the uniqueness and innovation of the initiative, highlighting Newport Beach’s responsibility as stewards of their recreational harbor.

Construction will commence in early October, with visible progress such as sinking piles into the river and attaching a platform for the wheel by the summer of next year. The wheel’s power will be sourced from solar panels and the river current.

Once trash is collected on the conveyor belt of the water wheel, a rail system will transfer it to a standard trash truck for proper disposal. This project will augment existing trash reduction efforts already implemented in the bay and harbor.

State Sen. Dave Min expressed his enthusiasm for this project, stating, “This is the first of its kind on the West Coast; it embodies our commitment to protecting Newport Bay.” Assemblymember Diane Dixon, who also previously served as a mayor of Newport Beach, echoed Min’s sentiments and recounted her initial encounter with the Mr. Trash Wheel in Baltimore Harbor.

The project received bipartisan support, with Min and Dixon securing the remaining $1.6 million needed from the Department of Water Resources budget to complete the funding.

Dixon remarked, “We’ve got to get something like this.” She never anticipated that the water wheel would become a reality in Sacramento. Their collective efforts showcase the importance of bipartisan cooperation in achieving environmental goals.


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