CARLSBAD — For decades, Carlsbad, Oceanside and residents have been at odds with how to approach a much-needed restoration to the Buena Vista Lagoon.
Now, more than 20 years later, it appears a deal has been struck by the San Diego Association of Governments and neighboring homeowners and stakeholders on how to proceed with the restoration.
SANDAG announced earlier this year it was opting for the saltwater option, which requires removing a weir (dam) separating the lagoon from the ocean. The latest proposal calls for deepening the western lagoon, closest to the ocean, while removing a pedestrian bridge.
Keith Greer, principal planner at SANDAG, said the new plan calls for creating deeper water habitat in the central basin. Also, the environmental impact report studied freshwater and hybrid options for the lagoon, of which a majority is owned by the state.
“I’m very encouraged with the proposal that came back,” Greer said. “I’m going to characterize it as a modification of the saltwater alternative.”
In 2012, SANDAG took over as the lead agency on the restoration, which also included the environmental review process. Last year, the SANDAG board delayed approving the project to allow more time between stakeholders to enhance the deal.
With the new agreement, Greer said the proposal will return to the SANDAG board later by the end of this year.
Councilman Keith Blackburn said the issue has been ongoing for at least the past nine years with 10 different agencies pulling in different directions. Additionally, the residents were at odds and the approval from SANDAG to delay the plan by six months was approved by just one vote.
“The vote wasn’t even for the right reason,” Blackburn said, adding Greer deserves credit for leading the project and finding a compromise. “Congratulations on coming up with a solution.”
Resident Scott Sterling said the last six months has been revolutionary as the stakeholders, including the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation, Save the Buena Vista Lagoon group and others were miles apart entering discussions.
“Through efforts and negotiations finally a plan has been solidified that meets standards of both,” he said. “That is a difficult thing to do without litigation.”
Natalie Shapiro, executive director of the Buena Vista Lagoon Audubon Society, said over the years the lagoon has suffered as well as residents. The lagoon is infested with invasive cattails, bulrushes and mosquitoes, she said.
Shapiro said her organization has been is in favor of the saltwater option, although they are cautiously optimistic.
“It will be beneficial when we all agree on an alternative for the lagoon and community,” she added. “But we want to wait and see to get some more details. There are some more studies that need to be done, and we need to look at those studies before we support the saltwater alternative.”
Jim Petronella, a resident near the lagoon and who has been active in the issue for years, said all six homeowners associations and private homeowners are in support of the plan.
“A lot of work and effort has gone into this,” he said. “At this point, we just want to ink a deal.”
The review process cost $1 million, with SANDAG committing $800,000 and Carlsbad and Oceanside each putting in $100,000.