CARLSBAD — Movement on a restoration project for the Buena Vista Lagoon will be delayed at least six months.
On Nov. 16, the San Diego Association of Governments approved a request to delay the item after the Carlsbad City Council approved a letter calling to postpone the project earlier last week.
SANDAG took over as the lead agency to conduct the environmental review after Carlsbad and Oceanside spent decades of fruitless negotiations. The SANDAG review analyzed four options for the lagoon, which includes freshwater, saltwater, a hybrid and no project (as required by the California Environmental Quality Act).
SANDAG recommended the saltwater alternative, which would remove a weir, plus constructing an inlet from the ocean to fill the lagoon. The Carlsbad City Council, Buena Vista Foundation, Buena Vista Audubon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Commission all supported the proposal.
However, during last week’s City Council meeting, a group of residents threatened legal action saying delaying the project so all parties could come to a compromise would be the best course of action.
Those residents, who live nearby the lagoon, said the hybrid option would best serve the lagoon, allowing for the weir to be moved to the Interstate 5 bridge, thus still providing habitat for protected and endangered species.
In addition, the group said the only reason SANDAG is pushing the saltwater option is because it would deliver mitigation credits for regional transportation projects.
Despite being a freshwater lagoon, Keith Greer, principal regional planner at SANDAG, said last year creating an inlet is the best option as the lagoon is being choked to death by cattails and bulrushes.
The saltwater option would remove the weir (or dam) to 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.
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.
According to Greer’s presentation, construction costs for the saltwater project are estimated between $60 million to $65 million with an annual maintenance cost of $152,000 to $233,000. A pedestrian bridge would also be added to cross the new inlet, which would expand from 50 to 100 feet.