San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration

This painting is evocative- is this really what North County, San Diego looked like 150 years ago? Now it is strip malls, freeways and subdivisions . . .

My case study is the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Project. The project is funded by Edison power company, which runs the San Onofre nuclear plant (on the coast to the north); thus it is a mitigation project. Lagoon functioning is mandated to be maintained through 2050. Because of the suburban and farming areas surrounding the project, much attention was given in the documents to property ownership.

1) What are the criteria for success? How were they set?
The main goal is to restore the hydrology to create a "natural, self-sustaining tidal marsh." Thus berms on the river will be inspected and rehabilitated annually, the outlet Thus other factors, such as invasive species were to be dealt with as needed, but without a a concrete plan, though with a focus on removing them from newly vegetated areas (time period or methods unspecified). Increasing habitat for endangered species is also a goal, but it is poorly defined and there appears to be no monitoring planned to access compliance. Mostly the planners appear to be attempting to fulfill the guidelines from the plethora of permits (e.g. FWS, CCC) to avoid impact or use best practices, rather than proactively attempting to restore the habitat and monitor their success.

2) What ecological concepts (e.g., ecosystem succession, landscape connectivity, Community assembly) seemed to influence the design or rationale?
Hydrology! They thought a lot about watersheds (landscape), influence from surrounding area as well as tidal influence. This wetland drains a larger area than any other in S. CA, thus it receives many inputs. Changes in beach structure to the south, affect sediment deposition in the outlet channel. Further this project is contextualized with regional goals to increase wetland acreage between Tijuana and LA.

3) To what extent were social or economic considerations incorporated?

They increased access to the area (via trails) as well as provided informational material. To ensure flood levels wouldn't increase and impact commercial or agricultural areas the banks of the river were stabilized. The berms are also designed to limit impact to the beach, which has high traffic. Maintaining the viewshed for residents was also of concern. NGOs were purportedly involved in the planning process (according the the website) but were not mentioned in the document.

In sum, this was a mitigation project that merely sought to comply with regulations, restoring processes and providing habitat comes off as lip service. Nonetheless, the total cost was $40,000,000!

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