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Mudflat Habitat in the Central Basin of the San Elijo Lagoon

Drive past the San Elijo Lagoon this summer and wonder why construction crews are moving piles of mud around the lagoon.

The moving of mud is for a very specific reason. This month, San Elijo Lagoon Restoration crews completed the construction of new mudflats in the lagoon just west of Interstate 5. Mudflats are muddy areas that are submerged and exposed every day as the ocean tides rise and fall. Mudflats are an important aspect of salt marsh habitat, and the recent enhancements will help to ensure that plant and animal diversity continue to thrive in the lagoon. Birds and other estuarine species in the lagoon depend on mudflats for feeding.

Mudflat creation began this past June, and this work is part of the larger $118 million San Elijo Lagoon Restoration project. The work took place west of I-5 in the central basin of the San Elijo Lagoon. Caltrans and SANDAG have partnered with the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy on this important coastal habitat restoration project.

“One of the goals for reviving the wetlands is to create a balance of tidal habitats throughout the estuary,” said Doug Gibson, Executive Director and Principal Scientist for the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. “We are proud of the work being done to increase wildlife diversity and enhance the health of the lagoon.”

Visitors also may notice air bubbles in this area of the lagoon. At times, crews install an aeration system, or bubble curtain, to help keep fish safe and away from active construction areas, where dissolved water oxygen levels are low. The San Elijo Lagoon Restoration project is one of the first wetlands restoration projects to use this technology for this purpose.

Visit the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy “Reviving Your Wetlands” website to learn more about the upcoming phases of construction in the lagoon and link to their blog for more information about the activities in the lagoon (

The San Elijo Lagoon Restoration project is one element of Build NCC, the first phase of the greater North Coast Corridor (NCC) Program. The NCC Program was unanimously approved by the California Coastal Commission in 2014. The lagoon restoration is also a component of the $850 million SANDAG Environmental Mitigation Program, which was established to provide funds for large-scale acquisition and management of critical habitat areas.

For more information on Build NCC and regular updates on construction activities, please sign up for email notifications at, follow the project on Twitter @BuildNCC, and enroll for text alerts by texting “BuildNCC” to 313131. Additional information can be obtained by calling the construction hotline at (844) NCC-0050 or by emailing [email protected].

About Build NCC

Build NCC is a collaborative effort between SANDAG, Caltrans, and United States Department of Transportation. Build NCC is the first phase of construction in the cities of Solana Beach, Encinitas, and Carlsbad as part of the North Coast Corridor Program. Build NCC includes extending the existing HOV/carpool lane on I-5 in each direction from Lomas Santa Fe Drive to State Route 78, double tracking the rail line and replacing the highway bridge at the San Elijo Lagoon, replacing the rail bridges at the San Elijo Lagoon, restoring the San Elijo Lagoon, and constructing nearly 10 miles of new bike and pedestrian trails. Construction on Build NCC began in early 2017 and will be complete by 2021.