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great blue heron
Great blue herons are birds native to the coastal wetland. File photo
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Oceanside advances plans for Loma Alta Wetlands project

OCEANSIDE — With more than $500,000 in combined state and federal funding and the conceptual restoration planning for the Loma Alta Wetlands Enhancement Project complete, the project is one step closer to coming to fruition.

The Loma Alta Wetlands Enhancement Project is intended to restore approximately six acres of coastal wetland and upland habitat near Buccaneer Beach in South Oceanside.

The project will include more than 1,500 feet of new natural trails with educational signage and connections to nearby city facilities, as well as improvements to the wetland water quality, storm flow protection and wildlife habitat expansion.

According to Project Manager Justin Gamble, the “conceptual restoration planning is complete,” including a feasibility study and technical surveys needed to conduct preliminary engineering.

Since 2019, the city has held three public workshops for residents to provide their input on the project’s conceptual design.

“The community helped identify the restoration goals and directly played a part in selecting the conceptual design features,” Gamble said via email. “For example, in our January 2020 workshop, we used an interactive format where attendees worked in groups to identify project phases, preferred trail alignments and wetland restoration features.”

Loma Alta Wetlands
The city is working to restore the Loma Alta Wetlands near Buccaneer Beach in South Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson

The project still needs to complete its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA ) process as well as final engineering and obtaining required permits for construction.

Recently, the city was notified of a $175,000 preliminary grant award from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Coastal Resiliency Fund.  The award will fund the project’s final design, which will then make the project ready for construction.

Aside from the federal funds, the city has received $410,160 from a State Coastal Conservancy grant to fund the planning and design.

“The City is actively seeking opportunities and applying for additional State and Federal grants to fund the project’s construction,” Gamble said. “The construction timeline is entirely dependent on the City securing an implementation grant, as no City funds are currently dedicated to the project.”

Loma Alta Wetlands
Loma Alta Wetlands near Buccaneer Beach in South Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson

In January, Oceanside resident Shari Mackin told The Coast News she was concerned that the project would not include the Buccaneer Beach Park and the decommissioned La Salina Wastewater Treatment Plant property.

Gamble explained that the wetlands’ enhancement “Is a standalone project.”

“Other planned projects in the vicinity of the restoration site do not preclude its implementation,” Gamble told The Coast News. “However, staff are working cooperatively across projects (where feasible) to incorporate features that will benefit the overall area.”

Gamble said an example would be the future connection of the wetlands trail system to the Coastal Rail Trail extension that is also in the design phase near Loma Alta Creek.