Next phase of San Dieguito Lagoon restoration work begins

A view of the San Dieguito Lagoon from the birdwing.
(Karen Billing)

In January, SANDAG and Caltrans, in partnership with the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, began work on the second phase of the San Dieguito Lagoon Wetland Restoration.

As the lead agency, SANDAG will be planting native species and establishing the wetland habitat in a portion of the lagoon system referred to as “W-19”, located on El Camino Real, south of Via De La Valle.

This lagoon restoration will create a new trail connection from the Dust Devil Nature Trail to the Coast to Crest Trail, enhance and expand riparian habitat along the San Dieguito River and convert approximately 84 acres of former agricultural fields and other degraded land into tidal wetlands. In total, 64 acres of tidal salt marsh, 15 acres of brackish wetlands( a mixture of saltwater and freshwater), and an additional five acres of riparian habitat will be restored through this project.

“This project is a great example of government agencies recognizing the interconnected nature of ecosystems,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear in a news release. “It makes sense to improve transportation networks, including trails and walking paths, while also restoring habitat and improving our natural environment. We can have better transportation systems and healthier habitat at the same time. This region has stunning biodiversity and we are enhancing it for future generations.”

The project is mitigation for the I-5 Carpool/HOV Lanes and LOSSAN Double Track improvements as part of the North Coast Corridor Program. Part of the restoration project will also be used as mitigation for the El Camino Real bridge replacement project.

The restoration will cost $87 million and is made possible by the SANDAG TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program and federal funding.

“The restoration of the San Dieguito Lagoon wetlands is a landmark project that will transform the region,” said San Diego Council District 1 Councilmember and JPA Board member Joe LaCava in the news release. “I am proud of this collaboration between the City of San Diego, SANDAG, Caltrans, and San Dieguito River Park JPA. Prioritizing projects that enhance San Diego’s unique natural environment while creating long-term sustainable solutions are essential to our community.”

During the construction period, people may hear noise, lighting and heavy equipment within the central basin of the lagoon and along El Camino Real and Via De La Valle. The Dust Devil Nature Trail will be closed to public use Mondays through Fridays. The trail will be open and accessible on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. (April through September, it will be open until 7:30 p.m.)

--Karen Billing