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Lagoon dredging project under way

CARLSBAD — Routine maintenance at Carlsbad’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon — Cabrillo Power’s biannual sand dredging project — began in early December and will replenish local beaches in the coming months, city officials said.
Encina Power Plant owner Cabrillo Power is required to dredge the lagoon’s outer basin every two years to remove sand, creating a clear path for the ocean’s cooling waters to reach the plant, associate engineer Steve Jantz said.
“It’s really a need to keep cooling the Encina Power Plant,” Jantz said. “It’s not a project that we do as a city — it’s a maintenance responsibility for Cabrillo Power.”
Pipes were laid earlier this month and sand will be pumped on to the beaches as early as Jan. 3. Cabrillo Power will distribute the sand on beaches between Oak Avenue to the north and Cannon Boulevard to the south.
Coastal Commission and Army Corps permits require that the project be completed with pipes off of the beach by May, Jantz said.
“The city benefits from this routine maintenance because we’re in a deficit, and this is a localized beach improvement project,” Jantz said. “It’s great because they’re putting a public resource back on a public beach for public enjoyment.”
Jantz noted that while some residents may be concerned when they see the lagoon sand on the local beaches — specifically because of its appearance — there is no need to worry.
“Visually it looks like pollution because it comes out looking like sludge, but it’s fine,” he said. “Everybody keeps their eye on it; by the next day, what’s out there is already light and starts to mix in.”
Cabrillo Power is responsible for funding and monitoring the lagoon dredging, while the city of Carlsbad, the California Coastal Commission, California Department of Parks and Recreation, among others, will regulate the project through its completion.
“A lot of the things Cabrillo Power is doing with this project — the time of year they’re doing it, how they’re doing it — is all in their permits,” Jantz said. “The sand is being tested by those agencies too.”
Agua Hedionda Lagoon was first dredged in 1954 and has been dredged every two years since. The biannual project has relocated hundreds of thousands cubic yards of sand to the beaches, clearing access for cooling waters to the power plant and replenishing beach lost to erosion, Jantz said.
“The coastline doesn’t have a lot of sand; in the wintertime it comes off and some of it goes back in the summer,” Jantz said. “That’s just coastal dynamics and the region tries to look at different ways to put more sand back on the beach. This is one of those ways.”