Buena Vista Lagoon restoration headed for showdown

Homeowners at the inlet to the Buena Vista Lagoon are fighting a plan to permanently open the lagoon to the sea.

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A much-anticipated and long-delayed plan to restore the Buena Vista Lagoon could be approved next week by the San Diego Association of Governments.

Surrounded by cattails and reeds, the shallow, 220-acre freshwater lagoon at the border of Oceanside and Carlsbad is slowly filling with sediment and weeds. Without intervention, it soon could become a muddy meadow.

For decades, plans to dredge or clear out the basin, as San Diego County’s other lagoons occasionally are cleared, have been stymied by endless debates over property rights, habitat preservation and whether to keep the unique status of Southern California’s only freshwater lagoon.

But now, perhaps, an end is in sight.

On Friday, the SANDAG board of directors will be asked to approve a final environmental impact report that recommends the weir, a low dam a few feet above sea level, be removed to open the lagoon to the ocean. The inlet would be widened and the channel deepened to allow the tides to flow in and out. It is one of four alternatives studied at length for the restoration.

First scheduled for the board’s meeting in January, the issue has been postponed multiple times because of numerous additional comments submitted by interested parties. SANDAG has said that every comment and suggestion will receive a thorough response.

There’s also a chance the board’s decision could be delayed again. The Carlsbad City Council will discuss Tuesday whether to support a request by lagoon area homeowners for the SANDAG board to continue the matter for an additional six months.

A year ago, Carlsbad approved a letter of support for the saltwater restoration. It was the only city to take a stand on the issue.

The environmental impact report, based on extensive studies, community meetings and years of work, concludes that removing the weir is the best way to improve the lagoon and the environment around it.

Property owners who control the weir and the outer portion of the lagoon disagree. They want the weir to stay, keeping the lagoon full of fresh water, only cleaned of the accumulation of reeds and sediment.

“We are fighting an uphill battle,” said Paul Alanis, who owns a beachfront home in Oceanside’s gated St. Malo community.

“There’s a great momentum for saltwater,” he said, but he and his neighbors are pushing back, hoping to at least achieve a compromise.

Some of the property owners and homeowners associations around the lagoon have formed the nonprofit Save the Fresh Water Buena Vista Lagoon Association and hired an attorney to fight the saltwater restoration. Read full article.