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Agreement in place for Buena Vista Lagoon restoration

CARLSBAD — After a six-month delay, restoration efforts are moving forward regarding the Buena Vista Lagoon.

The decades-long battle to determine the appropriate method to rehabilitate the lagoon appears to have been settled between government agencies and property owners, said Keith Greer, a principal planner for the San Diego Association of Governments during its June 28 board meeting.

SANDAG will move forward with the saltwater option and remove a weir (dam) to create an inlet along the Carlsbad and Oceanside border on the coastline.

“The main contention has always been … what the lagoon should be restored to, or enhanced to,” Greer said during his. “Instead of an environmental impact report, the board pulled back to allow time for the property owners to discuss a solution.”

The SANDAG board of directors approved a six-month delay on Nov. 16, 2018, at the request of the city of Carlsbad so residents and other stakeholders could spend more time reviewing the options.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said certain modifications will be made to the plan and he expects it to head back to the SANDAG board in the coming weeks, with a potential approval for the project later this year.

“SANDAG staff, the homeowners associations and St. Malo (Oceanside neighborhood) … it’s my understanding they’ve all come to an understanding with some modifications,” Hall said. “It had to have some modifications with the environmental reports, so it had to go out for some additional review.”

Messages left with the city of Oceanside were not returned.

Hall said he was not aware of the modifications, as the plan will not come back to the City Council unless requested. The council cannot approve or deny the project, but can receive a report about the new developments.

SANDAG considered four options: saltwater, freshwater, a hybrid and no project (which is a mandatory alternative under the California Environmental Quality Act).

The saltwater option will remove the weir and create a tidal lagoon. The inlet would also reduce flooding and mosquitos, improve water quality and have the most benefit to endangered species and habitat, according to Greer.

During the June 28 meeting, Greer said property owners, including the largest landowner, the state of California, came to agreement on the saltwater alternative, which meets SANDAG’s needs.

Engineering, legal and environmental analysis will be conducted before the proposal returns to the SANDAG board this fall, Greer told the board.

SANDAG took over as the lead agency for the environmental impact review in 2012 after Carlsbad and Oceanside spent years negotiating with each other, property owners and stakeholders. In 2017, SANDAG recommended the saltwater option as the best method to combat cattails and bulrushes.

In addition, the initial recommendation was supported by numerous conservation groups and residents, although some residents pushed back against the saltwater option.

Addressing the number of endangered species nesting around the lagoon and in the cattails, Greer said the plan calls for detailed handling of the birds and their nests to mitigate as much disruption as possible.

Photo Caption: An agreement with property owners, homeowners associations and the San Diego Association of Governments was recently reached regarding the Buena Vista Lagoon and rehabilitating the lagoon using a saltwater option. Photo by Steve Puterski

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