Area of Special Biological Significance

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There are three areas along the coast of Orange County that are designated as Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS):

  • ASBS 32 - Newport Beach Marine Life Refuge located just South of Corona del Mar,
  • ASBS 33 - Irvine Coast Marine Life Refuge located along the shoreline of Crystal Cove State Park, and
  • ASBS 30 - Heisler Park Ecological Reserve located along Heisler Park in Laguna Beach.

The ASBS includes the the rocky intertidal areas, more commonly known as tidepools, that provide shelter to sensitive marine species as well as the subtidal areas out approximately 1000 feet from shore. Over the past 50 years, the disappearance of kelp and the decline in the number of marine flora, fish, and invertebrate populations have been documented. Impacts to the intertidal and subtidal habitats include sedimentation, scouring, contamination, and dilution of the saline water via dry weather flows and wet weather flows. Additional types of intertidal disturbance include direct harvesting, scavenging, trampling, and collecting of organisms by humans. Through the monitoring of the intertidal community over time, changes to the community can be assessed and informed management decisions can be made to mitigate deleterious impacts.

ASBS Approved Special Protections - State Water Resources Control Board Resolution 2012-0031

The State Water Board has adopted a General Exception to the Ocean Plan ASBS waste discharge prohibition, for storm water and nonpoint source discharges including Special Protections for Beneficial Uses.


Buck Gully Rocky Reef Report  (December 2013) -From 2008-2013, 44 Rocky Reef surveys were conducted along the Orange and North San Diego County coastline.  The nearshore reef habitat at Buck Gully is comprised of high relief benches that transition to boulder habitat in its deeper reaches.  The outer edge of the Reef is a sand rock ecotone.  The overall habitat quality of Buck Gully is high.  This reef supports a vibrant Giant Kelp community with the typical and expected fish, algae and invertebrate components.  During the surveys, the highest densities of green and pink abalone were observed at Buck Gully. For the full report, please click the link below.

Biological Surveys of Buck Gully and the Nearshore Rocky Reefs of Orange and North San Diego Counties [PDF]

Corona del Mar Transect Study Summary (February 2014) - In 2003, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013 transect sampling was conducted at Little Corona del Mar in Newport Beach, CA.  The percent cover, biodiversity, and community structure of rocky intertidal macrophytes and macroinvertebrates were compared over the decade of intermittent spring sampling.  Based on the data set for this site, the macroflora and macrofauna did not change substantially over the past decade.  To view the full report, please click the link below.

Temporal Change in Rocky Intertidal Macroflora and Macrofauna Community Composition at Little Corona del Mar, Newport Beach, CA [PDF]

Little Corona del Mar Area of Special Biological Significance - Non-Native Seaweeds (July 2013) - In the rocky intertidal ecosystem of the Area of Special Biological Significance at Little Corona del Mar (Robert Badham Park), and in other rocky intertidal locations in Southern California, the non-native seaweeds: Sargassum muticum and Caulacanthus ustulatus are major contributors to community structure and ecosystem productivity. Despite the presence of these seaweeds for some time, little is known about their impacts on native community structure or ecosystem functioning.  The purpose of this study was to examine the impacts of these seaweeds on native assemblages through comparisons of tidepools or rock patches where the non-native seaweed was present and where it was absent.  To review the full study and all findings, please click on the link below.

Non-Native Seaweeds in the Rocky Intertidal Zone in the Little Corona del Mar Area of Special Biological Significance: Effects on Native Community Structure and Diversity and Investigation into the Feasibility of Local Eradication [PDF]

The effectiveness of the Buck Gully Erosion Control and Wetland treatment project and the Shorecliff Road infiltration gallery to reduce pollutant loading to the ASBS was assessed (January 2014).  Please click on the link below to review the report.

Effectiveness Assessment Monitoring Buck Gully Erosion Control and Shorecliff Infiltration Gallery Projects Newport Coast ASBS

The effectiveness of the infiltration units installed at the Reef Point parking lot at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach to reduce pollutant loading to the ASBS was assessed (January 2014).  Please click on the link below to review the report.

Effectiveness Assessment Monitoring Newport Coast ASBS Reef Point Parking Lot at Crystal Cove

The following two documents summarize the results of a (1) biological reconnaissance survey including a habitat assessment, a general inventory of plant and animal species, and vegetation mapping (March 2012), and (2) qualitative post- construction site evaluation (September 2013) performed for the Los Trancos Creek Maintenance Project located within Crystal Cove State Park.

Los Trancos Creek Maintenance Project, Biological Assessment Memo

Results of Post-Construction Site Evaluation at the Los Trancos Creek Maintenance Project, Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County, California

The 2013 ASBS Public Use Impact Study identifies the types of human activities at the beaches at Little Corona and Morning Canyon and compares the results to the 2007 Public Use Impact Study to determine if there have been any differences observed in the ways in which the public uses the ASBS.

Area of Special Biological Significance #32 - 2013 Public Use Surveys

Newport Coast Flow and Water Quality Assessment, Addendum 2: ASBS Protection and Restoration Program, June 2009

The City of Newport Beach prepared the ASBS Protection and Restoration Program  under an agreement with the State Water Resource Control Board on January 2, 2006.  Under this agreement, the City performed a series of tasks primarily focused on assessing potential stressors to the three Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) along Newport Coast and Laguna Beach, California. Figure 1 shows the locations of these three ASBS.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Locations of Orange County’s Three ASBS.

The objective of these assessments was to identify and quantify the environmental impacts that have most detrimental effects to the marine habitats of the ASBS. The three primary potential stressors to the ASBS along Newport Coast are thought to be:

  1. Public trampling and take as well as public and commercial fishing,
  2. Contaminated flows from the coastal canyons, or
  3. Contaminated loads from Newport Bay.

To assess the relative importance of these potential stressors, the primary tasks covered under this grant agreement included preparing:

  •  A public use impact study
  • An assessment of canyon flow and water quality - Newport Coast Flow and Water Quality Assessment
  • An assessment of contaminant loads from Newport Bay

A complimentary task performed under this agreement was the successful attempt to re-establish rockweed in the rocky intertidal area at Little Corona. The results of these studies were tied together with a quantitative impact metric to assess the relative importance of these stressors. The Impact Assessment Report is an addendum to the Integrated Coastal Water Management Plan which recommends specific ASBS protection projects and management measures for the Newport Coast watershed and adjacent marine life areas. 

ASBS Public Use Impact Study

The objectives of the ASBS Public Use Impact Study are to identify:

  1. the types of human activities within ASBS areas;
  2. the degree to which public use affects marine resources within ASBS areas; and
  3. techniques and methods that can be used by the cities of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach in implementation of long-term ASBS monitoring surveys.

Cross Contamination Study

The Cross Contamination Study was conducted to identify and quantify potential pollutant loadings from the coastal watersheds and to determine potential impacts of these pollutants to the ASBS in order to support the development of an IRCWMP.

 This study looked at potential pollutant discharges from Newport Harbor and major coastal creeks between Newport Harbor and Laguna Beach. The primary focus was on the loadings from Newport Harbor and Buck Gully. The cross contamination study addressed water quality and pollutant loading data, sediment, and hydrodynamic and water quality numerical modeling.  

Assessment Addendum 2 & Appendixes
Impact Metric Final Study
Appendix A

Toxicity Study

Appendix B

Mussel Bioaccumulation Study

Appendix C

Cross Contamination Study

Appendix D

Pubic Use Impact

Appendix E

Intertidal Monitoring Study

Appendix F

Rockweed Restoration Study

Grant Final Report

The final report is the final task for meeting the terms of the grant agreement. The report summarizes the issues, challenges, and results of the Public Use Impact Study, Urban Flow and Water Quality Assessment, Cross-Contamination Impacts from Newport Bay, Rockweed Re-Establishment Pilot Project, and the ASBS Impact Metric. The report concludes with a brief discussion of the grant agreement's budget and schedule.

Quarterly progress reports are used to address the report status, major accomplishments, and budget concerns.


Progress Report Reporting Dates
Progress Report #6 [PDF] November 2013 - February 2014
Progress Report #5 [PDF] March 2013 - November 2013
Progress Report #4 [PDF] November 2012 - March 2013
Progress Report #3 [PDF] June 2012 - November 2012
Progress Report #2 [PDF] November 2011 - June 2012
Progress Report #1 [PDF] April 2011 - November 2011

Progress Report Reporting Dates
Progress Report #9 [PDF] November 2008 - June 2009
Progress Report #8 [PDF] May 2008 - October 2008
Progress Report #7 [PDF] November 2007 - April 2008
Progress Report #6 [PDF] July 2007 - October 2007
Progress Report #5 [PDF] May 2007 - June 2007
Progress Report #4 [PDF] February 2007 - April 2007
Progress Report #3 [PDF] November 2006 - January 2007
Progress Report #2 [PDF] July 2006 - October 2006
Progress Report #1 [PDF] January 2006 - June 2006


The Newport ASBS Protection and Restoration Monitoring Plan is comprised of multiple studies within the framework of a comprehensive ASBS intertidal community assessment that is designed to build upon the results of the Newport Coast Water Quality and Flow Assessment Quality Assurance Project Plan (Weston 2007). Results from the initial water quality and flow assessment study, conducted during the 2005-2006 storm season, shaped the design of many of the current studies in the intertidal community assessment.

Protection and Restoration of Newport Beach Marine Life Refuge

A presentation illustrating the City's goal to protect and restore the resources at Newport Beach Marine Life Refuge at Little Corona Beach.

Contact Assistant City Engineer Robert Stein for additional information at or 949-644-3322.



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