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SANDAG Board Votes to Connect Buena Vista Lagoon to Ocean

Cattails obscure the Buena Vista Lagoon in San Diego's North County on Jan. 2...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Cattails obscure the Buena Vista Lagoon in San Diego's North County on Jan. 26, 2018.

The San Diego Association of Governments' Board of Directors voted Friday to allow the Buena Vista Lagoon to connect directly with ocean waters to flush out sediment.

The Buena Vista Lagoon has accumulated sediment during the last 30 years, resulting in the loss of more than 60 acres of open water, SANDAG documents said.

Current conditions have resulted in poor water quality, increased flooding, increased mosquitoes and risk of mosquito-borne diseases and general ecological decline of the lagoon. Without restoration, experts predict the lagoon has no more than 50 years until vegetation takes over and closes it.

"This is really a good news story and one we should celebrate," said SANDAG Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. "SANDAG staff has done an incredible job bringing all sides together to reach consensus. We are so pleased to see that the homeowners most affected by a change in the lagoon were able to come together with the cities' and state agency staff and work out this modified plan. It is more important than ever to preserve natural habitats, such as the Buena Vista Lagoon, to ensure it is sustainable for years to come."

The Buena Vista Lagoon is straddled by Interstate 5 and forms the boundary between the cities of Carlsbad and Oceanside. It runs from the Pacific Ocean on the west to Jefferson Street on the east. It is fed by Buena Vista Creek.

The lagoon and associated wetland habitat spans about 220 acres. In 1969, the lagoon was set aside as California's first ecological reserve. It is primarily owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. It attracts native and migratory birds, is open for fishing and hiking, and has a small nature center located on the grounds.

In November 2018, SANDAG completed an environmental impact report which recommended it become a saltwater lagoon. Members of the public made comments both in support and in opposition of the recommended enhancement. In response, the SANDAG board postponed certifying the report to allow more time to develop consensus with homeowners, state and federal agencies and local cities.

RELATED: SANDAG Considers Future Of Buena Vista Lagoon

SANDAG Principal Regional Planner Keith Greer led the efforts to compromise.

"The final deal took longer than expected but it was well worth the wait. Now all parties have a common goal and we can work together to secure funding and help restore the Buena Vista Lagoon to a vibrant, thriving preserve for nature and its visitors to enjoy," he said.

Last week, the Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved the modified saltwater plan. Letters in support of the proposal were received from the private property owners around the lagoon inlet, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Coastal Commission, the Buena Vista Audubon Society and the Sierra Club.

The Buena Vista Lagoon Enhancement Project has not been funded and a construction timeline has not yet been determined.

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