CARLSBAD — Buena Vista Lagoon is one step away from a complete makeover.
The Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved a modified saltwater option, which consists of transitioning the current freshwater lagoon into saltwater, during its May 12 meeting. Plans call for the removal of a wooden weir (dam) and adding a 100-foot wide inlet to allow seawater into the lagoon.
Keith Greer, principal planner for the San Diego Association of Governments, said the final step is for the SANDAG Board of Directors to approve the plan at its May 22 meeting.
“What we’re seeing is a fully functional saltwater system,” Grier said during his presentation.
The process has been more than a decade in the making, Councilman Keith Blackburn said. The issue has been contentious, at times and even within the past year, as Carlsbad, Oceanside, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, residents and other groups have battled over the direction of the lagoon.
Several years ago, Greer and SANDAG took over as the lead agency for the environmental impact report and putting together options. He said the growth of cattails and bulrushes have harmed the health of lagoon, which is why four options were presented to the council in November 2017.
The challenge, he said, involved ownership of the lagoon and the weir. Oceanside, Carlsbad, CDFW, conservation groups and two homeowners associations, along with five easements claimed rights.
Blackburn said every entity involved presented different options making negotiations too much to handle.
“I was part of this group 10 years ago,” Blackburn said. “We spent a lot of time going nowhere. Keith (Greer) said he would take on the responsibility of the EIR. That was a huge, huge game-changer. I think we’d still be in a room heading in 20 different directions if it wasn’t for Keith.”
Regardless, the modified option will create a saltwater lagoon west of Interstate 5 and a saltwater marsh east of the freeway. Still, the project nearly came to a halt in November 2018 when a group of residents requested SANDAG delay its vote for six months so the residents could continue to negotiate. Mayor Matt Hall said he was expecting the issue to end in litigation.
Still, the parties came to an agreement on the modified saltwater option. As part of the deal, Carlsbad, Oceanside, CDFW and SANDAG will own the new easements at no cost to the property owners.
As for the timeline, Greer said the funding is not in place, although several sources have been identified. Additionally, construction will not start for at least one year, perhaps longer, he added.
“We hope to get funding in the next year,” Greer explained. “It’s a very viable alternative and a very good alternative.”