The San Dieguito wetlands restoration project in Del Mar is showing signs of success much faster than scientists anticipated.
Since a newly created lagoon was opened to the ocean and tidal flow in January, an estimated 9 million fish have populated the large basin west of Interstate 5 and south of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
"Our expectations were to find some fish and invertebrate after a few months of the new lagoon being open and exposed to the daily ocean tides," said Dr. Hany Elwany, a costal engineer heading La Jolla-based firm Coastal Environments. "But the sheer numbers and varieties of fish and invertebrates have really impressed us with the fact that at least in this small part of the world, Mother Nature is flourishing."
The lagoon, the size of about 40 football fields, went from zero fish to about 4 million by June. When scientists measured the population again in August, the numbers had more than doubled -- more than three times the volume in the adjacent pre-existing lagoon.
The $86-million restoration of the lagoon and 150 acres of surrounding wetlands began mid-September 2006 and is slated for completion late 2009.
The project is funded by Southern California Edison as mitigation for environmental damage caused by their San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station. A diverse range of habitats will be revitalized, spanning from Dog Beach to El Camino Real, east of Interstate 5, and from Via De la Valle to the edge of Crest Canyon.
See next Friday's paper for more information.