SANDAG looks into Buena Vista Lagoon enhancements

SANDAG looks into Buena Vista Lagoon enhancements
The Buena Vista Lagoon is due for environmental enhancements. SANDAG took public comment Thursday and staff will come up with a recommendation. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD — The Buena Vista Lagoon in northern Carlsbad is due for an Environmental Impact Review update and the San Diego Association of Governments is evaluating different options to enhance the lagoon and prevent an overgrowth of cattails.

Cattails are a problem to the lagoon, according to SANDAG Senior Regional Planner Keith Greer, because they slow down the flow of water, which could create flooding and because they make it difficult for San Diego County staff to deal with mosquitoes, which carry disease.

The lagoon is the only freshwater lagoon in the state and Greer said it now has 100 acres of open water, which is down 60 acres since the last excavation.

It’s owned by the state with a property boundary that zig zags between Carlsbad and Oceanside.

“It’s a crazy property boundary,” Greer said. “No one can figure out why it was created but that’s what it is.”

SANDAG took over the environmental review process three years ago to provide an objective opinion after officials from Carlsbad and Oceanside became too entrenched on the debate between salt and freshwater.

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Greer updated the council on the four different options being considered for the lagoon.

The first option is keeping the lagoon freshwater and expanding an existing dam.

That would expand the open water and keep a cattail maintenance area, with light dredging to ensure the cattails don’t get too thick to allow staff control over the mosquitoes.

While the cattails cause some issues, they also provide a home to endangered species.

This option would require a dam expansion on the western portion of the lagoon.

The saltwater alternative would remove the dam and allow the ocean to move freely back and forth.

This option is tough, said Greer because it would make it more difficult to walk along the beach where the lagoon empties out to the Pacific Ocean.

Crossing on the beach without getting wet would be difficult 37 percent of the time.

Greer said a pedestrian bridge could be built to solve the problem although the northern portion in Oceanside is privately owned, which presents its own challenges.

The Carlsbad Boulevard bridge would also need to be raised at a cost of about $4 million.

The third option is a hybrid option, with fresh water on the east of Interstate 5 and saltwater on the west.

According to Greer it’s the most costly and challenging option of the four.

The final option is to do nothing, which Greer said is the worst option because of increased flooding and mosquito problems. Greer said the fish would go away and birds would likely as well.

SANDAG is holding a public meeting for input at the Carlsbad Community Center tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

Next, staff will make a recommendation based on public comments and the cost benefits.

Staff will revise and prepare the final Environmental Impact Review.

That will go before the public once more and than the SANDAG Committee and Board of Directors will hold hearings to finalize the decision.

All alternatives have a proposed boardwalk near the nature center on the east side of Carlsbad Boulevard to increase pedestrian access.

According to Greer, the funding will likely come from SANDAG’s North Coast Corridor project and state water bonds.

“I think the bigger problem is not where the money is going to come from, it’s what project do you want to build,” said Greer.

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