Collaborative efforts to address issues affecting Newport Bay date back to 1975 when the Newport-Irvine Waste Management Planning Agency (NIWA) was formed as a joint powers agency tasked, among other things, with overseeing development of a Sediment Control Plan. In 1983 a Cooperative Agreement was signed by the county, the cities of Irvine and Newport Beach, The Irvine Company and the California Department of Fish and Game to implement the Sediment Control Plan. The executive forum for that agreement superseded NIWA and expanded over the years to address other watershed issues and include other partners. It is now known as the Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee and it has the following membership:
- California Department of Fish and Game
- City of Costa Mesa
- City of Irvine
- City of Lake Forest
- City of Newport Beach
- City of Santa Ana
- City of Tustin
- County of Orange
- Irvine Ranch Water District
- Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board
- The Irvine Company
The Executive Committee, which is made up of elected officials, makes joint policy and cost-sharing recommendations that member entities are asked to adopt. The Executive Committee is supported by the Newport Bay Watershed Management Committee, which is made up of senior staff of the above entities plus the current Executive Director of Newport Bay Conservancy (NBC) representing the environmental community. The chair of the Executive Committee is County Supervisor John Moorlach, and staff support is provided by the OC Watersheds branch of Orange County Public Works.
The integrated OC Watersheds Program was created in the spring of 2000 to provide a more cohesive focus on protecting and improving water resources throughout Orange County. OC Watersheds manages a number of compliance programs stemming from the federal Clean Water Act, including municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits countywide and Total Maximum Daily Load regulations for individual pollutants in specific watersheds within the county. OC Watersheds monitors the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the waterways, conduct special studies, and coordinates related activities, including implementation of the Integrated Regional Watershed Management Plans for the north, central and south Watershed Management Areas.
The 162 square mile Central Watershed Management Area includes the 154 square mile Newport Bay Watershed plus coastal areas of Newport Beach that drain directly to the ocean.
Though the Newport Bay Watershed is hydrologically separate from the Santa Ana Watershed, the Central Orange County Watershed Management Area is part of the Santa Ana Watershed Management Area, and NBC has works with the Santa Ana Water Project Authority (SAWPA) to help ensure consistency between the Central Orange County Integrated Regional and Coastal Watershed Management Plan and the Santa Ana Watershed Integrated Regional Watershed Management Plan prepared by SAWPA.