Big Canyon Habitat Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Project

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The proposed Big Canyon Habitat Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Project is located in Big Canyon immediately west of Jamboree Road, on a six-acre site in the eastern portion of the 60-acre Big Canyon Nature Park (see Figure 1 and Figure 2).

The Big Canyon Restoration project will:

  1. Restore historic riparian habitat by removing non-native vegetation and replace it with native plantings.
  2. Stabilize the creek and floodplain.
  3. Improve water quality in Big Canyon Creek and the Newport Bay.
  4. Enhance public access within the Big Canyon Nature Park.

This proposed project is part of extensive planning efforts by the City, in partnership with resource agencies, environmental non-profits, and the community, to improve water quality in Big Canyon including preparation of the 2011 Big Canyon BMP Strategic Plan (revised 2015). In addition, the restoration activities are integrated with larger restoration efforts planned for the Newport Bay (Central Orange County Integrated and Coastal Water Management Plan, 2009).

This project constructs a low-flow diversion and stormwater bioretention treatment wetland to significantly improve water quality in the Big Canyon Wash (see Figure 5). The six-acre project will also remove all invasive plant species and restore the watershed with a native plant palette.

This City's project provides several inter-related benefits including:

  • Significant Water Quality Improvements The project's water quality benefits include attenuating pollutants from the watershed that include trash, nutrients, selenium, and pesticides that impact the coastal creek and Upper Newport Bay State Marine Conservation Area ecologies. These water quality improvements protect creek and bay mammals, birds and fish.
  • Trans-formative Creek and Estuary Restoration The project includes restoration of 1,500 feet of coastal canyon creek and three acres of riparian habitat (which includes Least Bell's Vireo habitat) that have been impacted by hydro modification, and invasive plant species. Restoration is also expressly planned to boost ongoing community and regional watershed education and outreach programs by re-creating a spectrum of integrated habitats and water quality improvement features within this nature park watershed that can be accessed by a watershed friendly trail system.
  • Coastal Habitat Adaptation Planning for Sea Level Rise – Areas of Big Canyon that are susceptible to sea level rise flooding will be modeled and mapped. Modifications to Big Canyon topography, in areas currently populated by invasive Brazilian pepper trees, will be planned to allow for migration of sensitive plant species (such as the endangered salt marsh bird's beak) and bird nesting to higher ground.

The City expects this keystone project will serve as a model for continuing management and implementation activities to restore ecologic resources around Newport Bay by:

  • Reducing the impacts of pollutants in surface waters;
  • Restoring the functions and beneficial uses of coastal creeks and wetlands through removal of invasive plants;
  • Removing selenium impacted sediment and vegetation;
  • Establishing hydraulically stable channels; and
  • Planning and implementing restoration efforts that adapt to anticipated sea-level rise to protect sensitive and endangered species in our coastal environment.

Additional Resources

For more information, contact Assistant City Engineer, Bob Stein, at 949-644-3322 or


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