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Workers Begin Dredging San Elijo Lagoon

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Sand clogs the pilings under the Highway 101 bridge which spans the San Elijo Lagoon, on June 4, 2015.

San Elijo Lagoon is about to get a blast of ocean water. The annual dredging of the lagoon's inlet got underway Thursday.

Two large earth-movers will push around sand for the next week or so at the San Elijo Lagoon. It is part of an effort to maintain a delicate ecological balance in the North County waterway.

The dredging project clears the way for ocean water to rush into the lagoon, which is tucked between Cardiff and Solana Beach.

Highways and railroads keep the lagoon inlet from from doing what it does naturally. The structures that span the water capture sand, which builds up and keeps ocean water out.

The water will stagnant and smell if it is permanently cut off from the ocean, said Barry Lindgren, an associate director of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. Tidal flushing helps keep the habitat vibrant.

"The constrictions from the infrastructure has converted some of that habitat to fresh water habitat. So keeping the inlet open does restore some of that marine character to most of the lagoon," Lindgren said.

Sand quickly gets trapped around the pilings that support Highway 101.

"It is rather remarkable. When they finish this operation, all four of those bays will be open. Water will be flowing beautifully," Lindgren said. "Within about two weeks, the two bays nearest to us will be filled with sand. It's a constant battle. It's kind of like pulling weeds."

The opening is typically dredged once a year, but conservancy members monitor the lagoon year-round and they will do it again this year if it needs it.

The dredging costs about $100,000 and is paid for with a mix of public and private funds.

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