Lagoon Restoration Project Shows Marked Improvement

It hasn't been like this since the early 19-hundreds, but the lagoon restoration project next to the Del Mar Fairgrounds is proving that, with a little help, Mother Nature can flourish again.

OK, it's not quite National Geographic, but, all things considered, this once-abandoned wetland area is once again thriving.

Marine biologists from U.C. Santa Barbara are more than amazed at the life they're finding in this man-made preserve.

“I'm very pleased there's good colonization of fish and other creatures,” said UCSB Marine Biologist, Steve Schroter.

In fact, the researchers believe there are millions of fish, snails and more in a lagoon that, just 8 months ago, was devoid of life.

Eight months ago, an excavator opened a channel to the sea as part of an $80-million restoration project to offset environmental damage caused by San Onofre.

But this is a far better return than most had hoped for.

“Once you get the food, the base of the web established, then you can support higher level of consumers,’ larger fish and birds and so forth, so it's very encouraging to us,” said UCSD Marine Biologist, Mark Page.

U.C. Santa Barbara is the independent monitor of the lagoon's progress which will eventually be opened up to the public.

“We've got walking paths and we're inviting the community in to share what we've created here,” said Page.

The observation deck and walking paths, for now however, will take a back seat to the lagoon's restoration.

The work is far from complete. The next phase is scheduled to open on the east side of I-5 later this year.

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