Local leaders celebrate new San Elijo Joint Powers Authority facility

Local officials cut the ribbon to open the new facility.
(From left) Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito, Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kristi Becker, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Encinitas City Councilwoman Kellie Hinze and San Elijo Joint Powers Authority General Manager Michael Thornton.
(Luke Harold)

Local leaders cut the ribbon Oct. 19 to open a $20.6 million San Elijo Water Campus project on Manchester Avenue in Encinitas that includes an administrative building, bicycle and pedestrian path, and pocket park.

Michael Thornton, general manager of the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, said the project was “a decade in the making.” The construction, which took about a year and a half, persevered through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thornton said there were discussions about delaying.

Aerial view of the new campus.

“We elected to stay the course,” he said. “And this was through the persistent and consistent support of the board as well as a team that really wanted to build this project.”

Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Kristi Becker, who serves as chair of the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority board of directors, praised the project’s environmentally-friendly features. The facility includes a 31-space public parking lot with electric vehicle charging stations, seven acres of open space, about 40 new trees that were planted, and stormwater capture and reuse features.

“The water campus improvement project will help us adapt to climate change as well as build local sustainability with our water recycling and water quality programs,” Becker said.

The facility, which opened in the 1960s, treats more than 5 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater per day for Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar and parts of Rancho Santa Fe, according to a news release.

A new bicycle and pedestrian path along the western border of the campus will connect Birmingham Drive to Manchester Avenue, which provides access to the nature center and trails at San Elijo Lagoon.

“I can’t wait to ride the new bike path to the nature center and take advantage of the many public amenities that the water campus has to offer,” said Encinitas City Councilwoman Kellie Hinze, the vice chair of the San Elijo board.

Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito, who serves on the San Elijo board, added that the infrastructure upgrades “represents and reflects the great work they do.”

Other features include a half-megawatt photovoltaic system that generates enough power to provide 25% of the facility’s electricity

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, another member of the San Elijo board, commended the cooperation among the city of Encinitas, CalTrans and the San Diego Association of Governments that made the project possible.

“These are little pieces of a really important transportation network,” she said.