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Beach replenishment project begins at Fletcher Cove

 The $102 million multi-agency restoration of San Elijo Lagoon is back.

The joint effort between San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, Caltrans and San Diego Association of Governments to preserve and replenish parts of the North County shoreline continued working on the first phase of the North Coast Corridor (NCC) Program on April 28 at Fletcher Cove Beach.

The beginning stages of the NCC program, known as Build NCC, include construction in Solana Beach, Encinitas and Carlsbad.

The monthlong dredging project will pump sand around the clock, from San Elijo Lagoon to Fletcher Cove shoreline, until the project’s estimated completion on Memorial Day.

The primary goals are to restore coastal mudflats — a primary source of food for both local and migratory birds — and to improve water quality and inlet circulation by relocating mineral-rich sand that can produce suffocating levels of plant growth.

After several weeks of preparations, workers recently finished installation of a conveyance pipeline which will relocate roughly 140,000 cubic yards of sand, over the next month, averaging 7,000 a day.

“In order to improve the way water gets around these systems, we wanted to remove nutrient-laden sediments from channels in the lagoon, dredge out the channels and micro-contour the area to bring back mudflat habitats,” said Doug Gibson, principal scientist and executive director of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust for the San Elijo Ecological Reserve, is responsible for quality control throughout the dredging process, making sure contractors abide by permit guidelines and that the project is built as originally designed.

The lagoon’s restoration, which was unanimously approved by the California Coastal Commission in 2014, is funded through TransNet, a voter-approved, half-cent sales tax administered by SANDAG.

For the next four weeks, nearby residents of Solana Beach and visitors will be subject to noise, lights and a faint, wetland scent from newly dredged sand. Beachgoers may also notice cloudier water that will settle shortly after completion, project officials said in a recent release.

But despite the temporary inconveniences and large machinery, Gibson said the climate-resilient project doesn’t pose a risk to the environment.

“It’s not toxic, we’re not polluting anything,” Gibson said. “We are trying to remove nutrient buildup and improve water quality.”

For Gibson, the larger Build NCC program addresses the growing concerns over climate change through environmentally conscious methods.

“Municipalities are looking at ways to help offset the effects of sea-level rise and protect infrastructure without building dykes, levies and sea walls.”

Over the last eight weeks, Build NCC had pumped nearly 300,000 cubic yards of sand onto Cardiff State Beach.

After work at Fletcher Cove, Gibson said they will return to finish some remaining work at Cardiff before heading south from the lagoon inlet toward Seaside State Beach.

The San Elijo Lagoon restoration work is part of a comprehensive set of Build NCC projects to add carpool lanes to Interstate 5 from Lomas Santa Fe Drive to State Route 78, double track the coastal rail corridor, provide 10 miles of walking and biking trails and enhance the region’s natural resources. The program was unanimously approved by the California Coastal Commission in 2014.

The Build NCC began in early 2017 and is scheduled to wrap-up in 2021.

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