REGION — As plans to restore the San Elijo Lagoon move forward, community members can learn about the project, ask questions and share ideas and concerns during the first of two public hearings from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at La Colonia Community Center, 715 Valley Ave. in Solana Beach.
The proposed project includes restoration of the lagoon, located on the coast between Solana Beach and Encinitas and extending inland to Rancho Santa Fe, and the disposal or reuse of the excavated materials.
The goal of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, which is overseeing the project, is to bring back the lagoon’s ecological functions by increasing the tidal circulation. That will be done by reconfiguring the lagoon’s elevations.
Dredging could generate more than 1 million cubic yards of material. Disposal options include reusing the excess matter onsite or placing it offshore or on beaches.
A permit, required for any work in the nation’s navigable and tributary waters, has been submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We want to get the water moved more effectively,” Doug Gibson, the conservancy’s executive director and principal scientist, said. “We have been able to work in the lagoon to increase circulation. The idea is to come up an alternative that further increases the circulation and maintains a diverse mix of habitat.”
Gibson said three alternatives, plus a no project option, are being considered. They include creating a new bridge over Coast Highway 101 and a new railroad trestle and moving the inlet to the south.
Depending on the option selected, the cost of the project could range from “hundreds of millions of dollars to the $50 million range,” Gibson said.
Funding will come from the San Diego Association of Governments, the region’s main planning and transportation agency.
If approved based on the current timeline, construction will begin in 2016 and take about three years to complete.
Gibson said work will occur concurrently with the Interstate-5 expansion and double-tracking projects so there are no long-term effects on the environment.
“If we do it all within three years instead of three years on each project, we’re not in the environment for nine years, which exacerbates the environment,” he said.
The restoration will be divided into four areas. They are the basin east of Interstate 5, the central basin between the railroad tracks and I-5, the west basin between Coast Highway 101 and the railroad tracks and the coastal area between the Pacific Ocean and the railroad tracks.
A draft environmental impact report is available for public review and comments a co.san-diego.ca.us/parks/public_review.html or the Department of Parks and Recreation office at 5500 Overland Ave., Ste. 410, San Diego.
Comments can be submitted through Sept. 29 to Meris.Bantilan-Smith@usace.army.mil.
They can also be mailed to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District
Regulatory Division, South Coast Branch
5900 La Place Court, Ste. 100
Carlsbad, CA 92008
An identical public hearing will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Encinitas Community Center, 1140 Oakcrest Park Drive in Encinitas.
“We want people to get involved and challenge us because that will make it the community project we are aiming for,” Gibson said. “We want to be able to say we looked hard and the final alternative is the best project.”