The Coast News Group
Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News

Private company takes on San Luis Rey River wetlands mitigation project

OCEANSIDE — Most people will never see the 56-acre restoration project along the San Luis Rey River that will move more than 680,000 cubic yards of fill dirt from the floodplain and plant thousands of native trees and bushes.

The restored wetlands north of Mission Avenue and east of Melrose Drive will be kept as a private conservation area and be closed to the public. Beneficiaries will be wildlife and the environment.

“It’s all about the biology,” Paul Sherman, director of land acquisition for Wildlands Inc., said.

Wildlands Inc. habitat development and land management company is taking on the restoration project.

The company bought the wetlands acreage from the Singh family, who have owned the property since 1964 and run a tomato farm and packing facility on adjacent land.

The goal of the company is to restore the wetlands, gain state mitigation credits, and sell those credits to future developers who need mitigation credits to move forward with a building project.

Mark Heintz, COO and general counsel for Wildlands Inc., said the credits could be sold to any builder within the San Luis Rey River watershed service area, which is essentially most of San Diego County.

Required studies for the restoration project have taken four years to complete.

With the Planning Commission’s approval on July 28, Wildlands Inc. will move forward with restoration efforts that will benefit area wildlife and agriculture.

The San Luis Rey River channel design and floodplain capacity will be improved by removing massive amounts of fill dirt.

The adjacent agriculture fields and packing facility will benefit by having the dirt added to their sites and raising their elevation.

“The existing agriculture fields are the best type of land use for years for come,” Richard Greenbauer, city senior planner, said.

Long-term benefits of restoring the wetlands are increased wildlife and improved watershed quality.

Planning commissioners said the project is a win-win.