OCEANSIDE — After hearing from community members back in August and on Jan. 16, city staff are working with consultants to design the Loma Alta Slough Wetland Enhancement Project.
The city was first awarded a $400,000 grant in early 2018 from the California Coastal Conservancy to plan the restoration of the wetland area where Loma Alta Creek meets the Pacific Ocean near Buccaneer Beach.
That money was meant for planning and design purposes only and not for construction, according to Justin Gamble, the project’s manager. Another grant would need to be required in the future to cover construction costs.
The city then held two workshops for residents, the first to introduce the project and the second to finalize what people want.
“One common theme from both workshops was pedestrian connectivity,” Gamble said. “Residents being able to appreciate and experience the wetland for what it is.”
Right now, the idea is to restore the north side of the wetland area and build a walkway from Coast Highway to Pacific Street, similar to the walkway from Coast Highway to Buccaneer Beach. Gamble noted the walkway would also include educational signage on the aspects of the wetland environment.
Additionally, the project will look at how it can connect potential wetland walkways to the Coastal Rail Trail extension that will be constructed through the city along the railroad tracks.
Now that both workshops are complete and the city has a general idea of what residents want to see with the wetland enhancement project, Gamble said the next step is putting together a feasibility study. After that would come the engineering design part of the project and documentation to ensure the project complies with environmental regulations.
The city’s goal is to have the design phase completed by the end of this year, Gamble said, noting that regulatory permitting may have to wait to be acquired by the end of 2021.
Gamble said the 4-acre coastal wetland is small but highly valuable to the city.
Nadine Scott, the founder of Friends of Loma Alta Creek, said the organization wants to see the wetland rehabilitated and functioning as intended.
“The idea to create new, enhanced wetlands will go a long way to keeping Buccaneer Beach safe and healthy for our families,” Scott said.
According to Scott, wetlands are great filters for pollutants, which is a reason why the wetland needs to be restored. Scott is also satisfied with how project consultants and city staff have responded to residents’ concerns and ideas for the project.
Shari Mackin noted there were concerns about not including the park and the decommissioned La Salina Wastewater Treatment Plant property into the project. She said residents have asked the city to hold public meetings and master plan the area rather than “piecemeal” the area.
“If master-planned, this area could be dynamic and the creek enlarged/enhanced — a spectacular place for residents and visitors alike,” Mackin told The Coast News via email. “Possible an interpretive center, larger restrooms, more parking, enhanced galley and who knows — maybe a surf shop too!”