Batiquitos Gets a Compromise Dredging Plan : Wetlands: Environmental groups still fear that the project, although helpful for marine life, will alter fragile habitat for migratory birds.
A compromise plan to restore Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad by dredging 3 million cubic yards of material won California Coastal Commission approval Wednesday, but environmental groups aren’t satisfied.
The $30-million dredging plan will allow more ocean water to enter the 600-acre lagoon, protecting marine habitat now threatened by a dry, stagnating lagoon.
Carlsbad Mayor Bud Lewis told the commission, meeting in Marina del Rey, that the lagoon, one of 19 high-priority wetlands identified by the California Department of Fish and Game, will slowly die without the dredging.
“In the long run, we’re going to lose it,” Lewis predicted.
However, with the commission’s decision he expressed confidence that “you’ll see water in the lagoon at all times. . . . Wildlife and other species will be able to maintain habitat.”
The Sierra Club and Audubon Society urged the commission not to permit the dredging, which is scheduled to begin next year.
Sierra Club representative Joan Jackson said an influx of ocean water may help marine biology, but the fragile wetlands for migratory birds would be ruined by flooding.
“They’re destroying this habitat in an attempt to restore marine habitat,” she said, asking the commission to explore a lagoon plan that would involve “a minimum amount of dredging.”
At the city’s request, the commission on March 12 approved a plan to dredge 3.7 million cubic yards at Batiquitos Lagoon. But, by June, Carlsbad had been forced to ask the commission to consider a more modest dredging proposal because of opposition from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries, the California Department of Fish and Game and the State Lands Commission.
Worsening the city’s troubles, in May the Sierra Club and Audubon Society filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court to block the dredging plan.
Besides decrying the effect of dredging on the lagoon, the suit complained about the influence that Los Angeles, its port and harbor authority have over the dredging plan.
A commission staff report acknowledges that the plan was proposed by the Port of Los Angeles, which wants to dredge 11.28 million cubic yards from San Pedro Bay and is looking for a mitigation project, required by state law.
“As the required mitigation, the (application to dredge San Pedro Bay) proposed a marine resource restoration project for Batiquitos Lagoon,” according to the staff report.
Jackson said Wednesday’s commission approval of the compromise dredging plan “does not change our lawsuit.”
Commission staff analyst Paul Webb advocated the compromise dredging plan, noting in a report that changes in bird habitat would be an “unavoidable byproduct of the enhancement project.”
However, the compromise plan “will result in significantly less habitat conversion than previously approved.” He said the project will not interfere with the nesting of three “high interest” bird species, namely the California least turn, the Belding’s savannah sparrow and the Western snowy plover.