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This Old Bridge
October 2008 | by Jacqueline Winterer

1927 Flood

Click on the enlargement itself to zoom in.

Good news about the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration: a large subtidal basin created over the old Del Mar airport teems with fish and invertebrates. So far, the restoration of the lagoon proceeds successfully under the effective leadership of Southern California Edison (SCE), helped by an excellent contractor, Marathon Construction. Most of this work has taken place on land owned by the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and the project progressed rapidly during last year’s mild winter season. At present, restoration efforts are concentrated north of the river and east of I-5. A mile-long berm is complete and a large wetland is taking shape.

Less dramatic in its visual impact but eagerly awaited by the public, a segment of the Coast to Crest Trail nears completion east of the Boardwalk. Heading east, the trail follows the southern edge of the Fairgrounds, crosses under the freeway and reaches the old Strawberry stand on San Andres Road.

The situation west of Jimmy Durante Boulevard is fundamentally different. The JPA does not own any of this land and has to rely on the good will of the adjacent jurisdictions to complete the project: the westerly passage of the Coast to Crest Trail and the dredging of the San Dieguito river inlet. The land is owned by City of Del Mar and the Fairgrounds on either side of the river. The State Land Commission has jurisdiction over the San Dieguito River bed and near banks.

A pioneer trail, created by our City under the guidance of the Lagoon Committee, follows the southern bank of the river and gives hikers access to the ocean along a trail that does not meet the Coast to Crest Trail standards and does cross over the railroad track (illegally). The beginning of a northern riverbank trail segment is proposed in the upcoming Fairgrounds Environmental Impact Report. Planned within the river’s 100-foot buffer zone it would require an approval by the Coastal Commission. West of the Fairgrounds property, the JPA is working on an engineering study to complete the trail westward toward the ocean.

Dredging the inlet under the railroad bridge is a challenge. The accompanying San Diego Historical Society photograph shows the railroad bridge surviving a major flood in 1927. This bridge was built around 1887 at the time of the opening of the railroad and appears to be the same bridge that we have today. It is supported by 456 pilings and spans not only the river but also part of wetlands to the north.

By dredging the lagoon inlet, the old bridge pilings would be submitted to enhanced tidal flow and greater attack by timber borers. North County Transit District, owner of the bridge, is actively working with SCE on a plan whereby the pilings would be wrapped in a protective layer of metal near the water line to inhibit marine borers.

So, while the restoration progresses very well, major challenges remain.

Jacqueline Winterer is President of the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley.



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