San Diego/ Weather & Environment
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Published on June 09, 2024
San Dieguito Lagoon's $87 Million Restoration Approaches Finish Line Near San DiegoSource: Mds08011, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The restoration of the San Dieguito Lagoon near San Diego, a decade-spanning endeavor with a price tag of $87 million, has reached a pivotal phase, marked by the recent merging of tidal waters from the Pacific into an area primed to once again flourish as salt marsh wetlands. This surge of progress breathes new life into 64 acres of land east of Interstate 5, which, according to a report from The San Diego Union-Tribune, once served as tomato fields. The reintroduction of water is part of an environmental initiative aimed at restoring the interface between land and sea — one that has been in preparation since 2012.

Kinetic as the moment might seem, the process to release the berm was notably more subdued, an aspect Kim Smith, a senior regional planner at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), touched upon in a statement obtained by Del Mar Times. Smith called the event anticlimactic but incredibly exciting for them to have witnessed, noting the action should eventually allow the tidal waters to extend nearly to El Camino Real. The project is anticipated to be completed by September.

The combined efforts of SANDAG, Caltrans, and various other agencies aim not merely to recreate a past ecosystem but also to actively provide a refuge for threatened species. The San Diego Union-Tribune highlights the space made for wildlife such as the light-footed Ridgway’s rail and least Bell’s vireo, birds with endangered status federally. Native plants also play a critical role in the habitat's rejuvenation, with local propagation ensuring the right species take root, ushering in a revived ecosystem.

For the local population of San Diego County, this restoration isn't solely about wildlife. It includes recreational enhancements like the new pedestrian trail, set to open in the fall. Expected to offer scenic views, the trail will connect to existing paths and the Coast to Crest Trail. This mixture of utility and beauty further speaks to the multipurpose nature of such ambitious projects—a pointed effort, according to the Del Mar Times, to actively provide functional yet beautiful landscapes for residents and fauna alike.

Smith also stressed the importance of this wetlands restoration for improving the overall lagoon ecosystem, noting how endangered birds like the light-footed Ridgway’s rail have already begun appearing in the newly restored areas. Additionally, SANDAG's project includes relocating several SDG&E utility poles to accommodate the improved environmental layout. All these elements form the tapestry of a project almost over a decade in the making, which, in September, will reside as another chapter in the narrative of environmental sustainability efforts in Southern California.