The Buena Vista Lagoon Enhancement

Buena Vista Lagoon Updates

In January, 2023, SANDAG began the on-the-ground studies needed to acquire data on the sediment and bathymetry of the Lagoon. These were done via a barge placed in the Lagoon, which took core samples from the sediment. Meanwhile, bathymetry readings were taken to measure the topography and depth of the Lagoon. Link to San Diego UT article. SANDAG is currently analyzing the sediment core data and bathymetry measurements and seeking additional funding to carry the Project through completion of the planning and design.

See the gallery below for photos.

In July, 2022, SANDAG received $1 million from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife towards 65% design, engineering, and permitting. Another $3 million is needed to complete this phase. Following completion of this phase, final design occurs, at which time the project is shovel-ready. Link to San Diego UT article.

In 2021, SANDAG received $3 million from the California Wildlife Conservation Board towards final planning for the Enhancement Project! $3 million more is needed, and SANDAG is working on acquiring that from federal funding sources. Link to the WCB meeting powerpoint (see item #33, page 151). Link to the meeting (see 2:42:19).


On May 22, 2020, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) approved a project for restoring the Buena Vista Lagoon in Oceanside, CA. This is a historic event, an almost 20-year effort in the making. Buena Vista Lagoon lies in North County San Diego, covering approximately 220 acres with most of the area owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as the state's first Ecological Reserve. Buena Vista Audubon Society manages a nature center at the edge of the lagoon's north shore.

Buena Vista Lagoon has been slowly filling up with reeds and sediment since it was dammed in the early 1970s by a weir at the mouth. Historically, the lagoon was both a saltwater and freshwater environment, depending on the influence and timing of ocean tides and upland streamflow. If nothing is done, the lagoon will eventually become a wet meadow and North County will lose an important piece of habitat for resident and migratory birds.

In 2004, CDFW led efforts to restore the lagoon; however, stakeholders failed to agree and the efforts stalled. Property owners near the lagoon's mouth hold easement rights to the weir and also own a small portion of the lagoon. Fearing that removing the weir would drain the Lagoon and replace it with mud flats, they insisted that it remain a freshwater system, with the weir kept in place. Conservation groups, including the Buena Vista Audubon Society, advocated for the weir's removal in order to become a saltwater environment. Removing the weir would allow the lagoon to connect to the ocean and to maintain a variety of saltwater habitats, subject to tidal influences. Currently there are no mud flats along the lagoon's edges. Mud flats are being lost elsewhere due to sea-level rise and thus a saltwater lagoon would provide this critical habitat for shorebirds. A saltwater lagoon would also function as a nursery for ocean fish, improve water quality,  reduce severe infestations of mosquitoes, and reduce flooding.

In 2011, Buena Vista Audubon Society's Andy Mauro and then-Oceanside City Councilmember Esther Sanchez travelled to Sacramento and met with the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, requesting that the project be restarted. Their efforts were successful; in 2012, SANDAG took the lead on lagoon restoration efforts.

SANDAG created a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIR) in 2015 and a Final EIR in 2018. The EIR presented three alternatives (besides no action): saltwater, freshwater, and hybrid. Last November, SANDAG was poised to vote on an alternative but delayed a decision for six months in order to work out an agreement with homeowners who threatened to sue if the saltwater alternative were selected. The homeowners, CDFW, and SANDAG ultimately agreed on a modified saltwater alternative, which keeps a portion of the lagoon (a small basin owned by the homeowners) intact as a freshwater system, with ocean saltwater bypassing this portion. The weir will be removed and the lagoon dredged and engineered to allow tidal flushing of ocean water.

Buena Vista Audubon Society supports the modified saltwater alternative and is committed to working with SANDAG as the next steps unfold. These steps include developing engineering plans, acquiring regulatory permits, creating a Master Agreement with property owners who currently hold easements to the weir, and obtaining funding for the project.

Please follow this link for Buena Vista Audubon Society's stance on the lagoon. For more information on the project (environmental analysis documents) please see

Read More about the BV Lagoon Enhancement

Comments on Buena Vista Lagoon Enhancement Draft EIR

This letter is a response from the Buena Vista Audubon Society (BVAS) to the request for comments on the Buena Vista Lagoon Enhancement Project Draft EIR.

The Chronology of the Lagoon

A summary of important dates, compiled from Department of Fish and Game records in Long Beach and from a proposal for a Buena Vista Lagoon State Park prepared early in 1966 by the Buena Vista Lagoon State Park Committee of Carlsbad and Oceanside, published by the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation.

Our Mission

To protect and preserve our region's birds, biodiversity, and threatened habitats, and to promote conservation of our natural resources through advocacy, education, and both habitat restoration and management.

Mailing Address

Buena Vista Audubon
PO Box 480
Oceanside, CA 92049

Nature Center

2202 S. Coast Highway
Oceanside, CA 92054



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