CARLSBAD — Representatives from the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG and CalTrans announced the $6 million purchase of 50.5 acres in the Batiquitos Lagoon on Tuesday.
The site, called the Batiquitos Bluffs, is southeast of La Costa Avenue, with a portion on the north side.
About three of the acres purchased include some wetlands, which Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation President Fred Sandquist said is a vital wildlife link.
“This acquisition brings a key piece of wetlands, which is the last missing piece in the Batiquitos Ecological Reserve and the State Marine Conservation, and provides a wildlife corridor for much of our wildlife that inhabits the area,” Sandquist said.
The lagoon is home to more than 180 species of birds and is a breeding ground for halibut.
The purchase was made to conserve and protect the open space and to fulfill environmental commitments made under the Interstate 5 North Coast Corridor Program.
Over the coming decades, SANDAG plans to add express carpool lanes to the I-5 between La Jolla and Oceanside, and enhance rail and transit options in the region.
The Batiquitos Bluffs was the latest of the 31 environmental spaces SANDAG has purchased starting in 2008.
SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale said SANDAG will spend $250 million to preserve and restore sensitive coastal habitats.
The money comes from TransNet, which is a half-cent sales tax voters first approved in 1984 and reapproved in 2004.
“This may have been the most effective investment the people of our region have made in the last 50 or 100 years as far as protecting our quality of life,” said Dale.
Since 2004, Dale said SANDAG has purchased more than 3,600 acres of land to preserve as open space throughout San Diego.
“That’s like Del Mar times three,” Dale said.
A 19-unit housing development was proposed on the site of the Batiquitos Bluffs in the past but was denied by the California Coastal Commission.
“It is very rare for prime coastal land to become available so we’re very happy for this acquisition for habitat and conservation,” Carlsbad Councilmember Lorraine Wood said.
Senior Regional Planner Keith Greer said to enhance the area, old eucalyptus trees and non-native species will be removed.
The foundation of an old building on the site will also be demolished.
Encinitas Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she does a lot of outdoor recreation and understands the importance of maintaining the space for the residents.
“It’s very important that we have policies that protect the lagoons and the land around them,” said Blakespear.
The lagoon is 610 acres.
“By working with the people who know these lagoons best, we were able to find parcels like this in serious need and were able to step in,” Caltrans I-5/SR 76 Corridor Director Allan Kosup said.
He said if everything goes according to plan, construction on the first phase of the major transit overhaul will begin next year, including double tracking the train tracks at the San Elijo and Batiquitos lagoons and one carpool lane in each direction from Solana Beach to state Route 78.