CARLSBAD — A group of residents is putting up a fight against the proposal to turn the Buena Vista Lagoon from freshwater to a saltwater body.
The recommendation came from the San Diego Area of Governments in November 2017 after years of study. The project was supported by numerous entities including the City Council and several environmental nonprofits.
However, the group Save the Freshwater Buena Vista Lagoon Association is pushing back against the SANDAG findings.
Jim Petronella, a Carlsbad resident who lives on Jefferson Street near the lagoon, said the residents have found numerous inconsistencies with the final environmental impact report. SANDAG took over the EIR in 2012 after years of disagreements between the numerous cities and nonprofits.
“You’re looking at a real degradation of quality of life,” Petronella said. “All the species and the furry friends that we see every day are going to be gone. I think that is a big thing for people who live around the lagoon.”
Points of contention for Save the Freshwater Buena Vista Lagoon Association are the addition of an inlet, the pedestrian bridge, loss of habitat and wildlife and less wetlands, Petronella said. The inlet raises concerns of drowning across the proposed 100-foot-wide body of water feeding the lagoon.
Petronella said his group is in favor of the freshwater alternative, as it is the best solution. In addition to the freshwater and saltwater options, SANDAG also studied a hybrid and taking no action, the latter of which is an option officials are required to study under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Petronella said one reason the lagoon is suffering is due to a lack of maintenance by the California State Fish and Wildlife Service. The body is being overrun with cattails and bulrushes, thus changing the ecosystem.
SANDAG’s EIR states a tidal lagoon (saltwater option) would reduce flooding and mosquitos, improve water quality and have the most benefit to endangered species and habitat.
“They have done nothing with it, to maintain the lagoon,” Petronella countered. “They’ve let the cattails grow and that’s where the mosquitoes breed. If they were concerned, they would have done something, but they haven’t done anything. They talk about getting rid of the freshwater mosquitoes, but make no mention of the impact of saltwater mosquitoes.”
Gabriela Torres, a San Diego-based attorney, has been hired by the association and recently sent a demand letter to SANDAG covering the group’s concerns. Torres is focusing on the CEQA and said there are numerous holes in the report.
“The EIR process seemed to be deficient and inadequate,” she said. “They raised some pretty significant concerns. There is no study that’s done whether this project changed from a freshwater lagoon to a saltwater lagoon will be successful.”
Other concerns include the elevation of the lagoon and how much water from the ocean will run into the lagoon, since the lagoon is several feet above sea level. The change in habitat and ecosystem is another major concern for the group, Torres said.
SANDAG will meet Feb. 23 to hear the report and may take action to implement the plan.