Published 3/18/2009 on Grunion Gazettes
A proposed plan to improve tidal circulation at Colorado Lagoon has proven divisive on a number of issues, but residents have largely agreed on the project’s top priorities.
Participants at a discussion last Thursday at Lowell Elementary School said the restoration should focus on improving the site’s water quality and natural habitat while enhancing the adjacent Marina Vista Park. But before those ideas can come to fruition, planners will address a number of concerns related to the project’s effectiveness, cost, impacts on recreational usage and other issues.
“We want to get feedback about the alternatives and look at the pros and cons of what we’re considering,” said Eric Lopez, Project Development Bureau administrative analyst. “We’ll take a closer look at each one.”
The original plan, documented in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, includes an open channel, which would run through Marina Vista Park and link Colorado Lagoon to Marine Stadium. Opponents voiced concern that the change could damage the site’s soccer and baseball areas by eliminating two acres of active parkland. Advocates, meanwhile, argue that the channel is essential to improving water quality and restoring the lagoon’s natural habitat.
Planners have narrowed suggestions down to several options, including upholding the current proposal — a suggestion backed by the Friends of the Colorado Lagoon. Another alternative would align the open channel in a substitute location along Elliot Street.
A third option includes the installation of a large underground culvert parallel to the one in existence.
The fourth alternative would combine the open channel and underground culvert proposals, placing the channel through the park, with culverts at each end. Lopez said this would preclude the need for proposed roadway bridges that would extend over the channel at East Colorado Street and East Eliot Street.
At the meeting, Blaise Delgado said an open channel would be essential to maintaining the site’s tidal current.
“We have a biological hazard in our backyard,” he said. “You can get sick from it. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. A parallel culvert is not an option — it won’t support the inundation. There is a lot of water and no system to clean it.”
Other residents expressed concern about losing space for activities at Marina Vista Park.
“(The park) gets a lot of use,” one resident said. “It would be a shame to lose that much park space.”
Christine Whitcraft, a wetlands biologist, spoke to the idea that the project could improve the natural habitat without sacrificing amenities at the park.
“The goals of this restoration can be multifaceted,” she said. “I don’t see them as being mutually exclusive.”
A few people that evening also mentioned that planners should be aware of the potential safety hazards of a new channel or an additional culvert. One resident spoke about the potential impacts of rising sea levels, while others noted a lack of notice to the community about the meeting itself.
Further studies, planners said, would address such issues, along with projected maintenance, long-term stability and impacts to the surrounding area. A study detailing the alternatives should be completed in about 10 months, Lopez said, adding that the project’s EIR would ultimately be amended to reflect any changes in the plan.
Since mid-December, progress on the proposed $15 million Colorado Lagoon Restoration has been largely suspended as a result of an order to halt work funded by state bonds.
Plans include repairing the tidal and draining system, removing contaminated sediment from the lagoon and adding native vegetation to feed and shelter wildlife.
To learn more about the project, visit www.lbds.info/planning.