A key section of the San Dieguito watershed east of I-5 is coming back to life halfway through a two-year, $87 million restoration project – and it shows. This photograph of the W-19 Restoration Site offers an aerial view of the restored tidal channel and saltwater wetlands to the left while a swath of new riparian plants can be seen taking hold on a recently completed berm just south of the main San Dieguito River channel that flows toward the sea at Del Mar.
The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority in 2002 described the area as “degraded wetlands,” much of it former farmland for growing tomatoes and lima beans. After the River Park purchased the land – some 64 acres of tidal salt marsh and 15 acres of brackish wetlands – they worked with Caltrans and SANDAG to restore and bring back natural tidal flows to sustain flooding and future sea level rise along with a blend of natural habitats that include nesting and foraging areas for threatened and endangered wildlife.
The unfinished area in the foreground is expected to be finished next year as riparian habitat to support local wildlife bordered by a section of the Dust Devil Trail along El Camino Real connecting to the 70-mile long Coast to Crest trail.