West Coast
Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune

CA - Final stage kicks off for $117M restoration of San Elijo Lagoon, Cardiff beach

Project aims to improve the health of the lagoon and slow the natural erosion of the shoreline between Solana Beach and Encinitas

A floating, diesel-powered dredge sucked sand out of the San Elijo Lagoon on Thursday — pumping the wet, gray material through a long plastic pipe onto Cardiff State Beach.

Last week marked the start of the final leg of a $117-million restoration project, which nearby communities hope will also slow shoreline erosion. The vision was initially proposed in the 1990s but didn’t secure funding until 2017.

Specifically, the California Department of Transportation is creating a roughly 80-foot channel under Interstate 5 to allow more saltwater into the eastern parts of the wetlands. For decades, I-5 trapped freshwater runoff in the lagoon, encouraging the growth of invasive plants, such as cattails and bulrushes.

The restoration, which is expected to continue through the winter, has also deepened the lagoon with previous dredging and reintroduced native plants, such as cordgrass, which provides habitat for the federally endangered Ridgway’s rail.

The lagoon is already starting to show signs of healing, said Doug Gibson, executive director and principal scientist for the Nature Collective, formerly the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.

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