The Coast News Group
A group calling itself the Freshwater Buena Vista Lagoon Association is opposing pending plans to convert the Buena Vista Lagoon from freshwater to saltwater. Courtesy photo

Group pushes back on lagoon plan

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.


Jim Gates February 6, 2018 at 7:12 pm

facts from

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. They are marshy because the soil may be composed of deep mud and peat. Because salt marshes are frequently submerged by the tides and contain a lot of decomposing plant material, oxygen levels in the peat can be extremely low—a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia is caused by the growth of bacteria which produce the sulfurous rotten-egg smell that is often associated with marshes and mud flats.

People can visit a salt marsh and not experience a rotten egg smell. There can be many reasons for this and easily explained:

1. They did not go at very low tide and salt water was covering the smelly region
2. The wind was blowing away from the observer
3. The observer was a long distance from the exposed regions (the smell was diluted over a long distance)
4. The observer had a cold or a bad sense of smell (typical of older people unfortunately)
5. The observer was wearing some perfume or after shave

Many residents that live near the Buena Vista Lagoon will be in close proximity to potentially rotten egg smelly areas with the salt water alternative. This is not a situation where salt marsh and mud flats will be a long distance from residents. The residents live there 24/7 and don’t have the option of coming back another time. There is little trust in government (state and federal) promising minimal or no smell.

Jim Gates February 6, 2018 at 1:51 pm

supporting evidence: saltwater is ~ $20 million dollars more cost than freshwater….

Table 1. Construction Cost Summary (in 2014 Dollars)

Saltwater $65,080,000
Freshwater $46,400,000

click on view construction costs

Dave Billings February 5, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Where are the studies and reports that support this viewpoint?

A salt water option will restore the lagoon to its natural condition, as you can see at the Los Penasquitos, San Dieguito, San Elijo, and Batiquitos Lagoons today. They have no “severe biting salt water mosquito” problems, the wild life and birds are flourishing there, there is no “salt marsh rotten egg smell at extreme low tides,” and the only “beautiful large area water views” that will remain if the lagoon is kept in a fresh water condition will be those by the San Malo community, because the rest of the lagoon will be completely silted in and become a meadow according to the EIR.

There is good reason why all of the state and federal agencies having jurisdiction over the lagoon and all of the environmental groups support the salt water option.

Jim Gates February 1, 2018 at 7:14 pm

SANDAG advertises two options for the lagoon: 1) the fresh water alternative and the salt water alternative. The salt water alternative (desired by SANDAG) will cost about $60 million dollars ($20 million more than fresh water). The residents responding to the environmental report requested public comments in 2013 and 2015 expressed a desire for the fresh water alternative by over 80%.

Worse yet, SANDAG is not replacing the fresh water with salt water. The salt water alternative will only have a narrow salt water channel going across the large lagoon basins that is tidal controlled (often little or no salt water at low tide). In the salt water alternative the large basins will be predominately salt marsh and mud flats. It is false advertising. The two options for the lagoon should be called 1) fresh water alternative and 2) salt marsh alternative.

Some of the problems with the salt marsh alternative:

1) not what residents want
2) costs $20 million more
3) huge amount of dredging (probably two years)
4) severe biting salt water mosquitoes after extreme high tides
5) fresh water vector mosquitoes in fresh water creek puddle areas and in puddles after rains
6) no more fresh water fishing
7) no more birds in the fresh water
8) salt marsh rotten egg smell at extreme low tides
9) no more beautiful large area water views
10) no more reflections of sunsets in the water
11) no more walking along the beach from Carlsbad to Oceanside (SANDAG will dig a tidal channel)

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