Pollution History

The Batiquitos Lagoon remained natural until very recent history when the surrounding area was developed. The first humans arrived at the lagoon around 8,000 years ago and this is when the lagoon first began to collect with human garbage. The nearly 200 sites with middens, (trash heaps made up of discarded shells), fire hearths, and other artifacts left by early Native Americans. Although these remains are the first signs of pollution, they had little effect on the natural state of the lagoon. The Batiquitos Lagoon was completely open to the sea, and was fully tidal. It wasn’t until the construction of the first highway, El Camino Real in 1880, that humans started to change the natural state of the lagoon. This was located East of the lagoon, but it lead the way for more construction. The next major construction that actually began to seal off the lagoon was the construction of the California Southern Railroad in 1881-1883 which was later replaced by the Santa Fe railroad in 1934. The Pacific Coast Highway was constructed in 1912 and then the large Interstate 5 freeway in 1965.

Batiquitos Lagoon Channel and Roadways, Photographed December 4, 2010 by Michael St.Onge

When all of these were constructed, a majority of the mouth of the lagoon was filled in and only a small opening remained for water to flow during tides. Because the mouth of the lagoon was mostly sealed off, it was only considered tidal on “variable” basis. Seawater would only come in during high tides and storms. To seemingly make problems worse, the San Marcos Dam was constructed in 1952, and decreased the amount of water that would flow into the lagoon. As  result, a few factors degraded the quality of the lagoon, and the number of species living in the lagoon declined as a result of harsher living conditions. Meanwhile, the lagoon slowly fills with silt because there is no way for the lagoon to flush itself out. In the 1980’s the silt had continually collected and formed a part of the lagoon that was dry and barren in the summer and overflowing in the rainy season.

In 1983 the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation is formed, and in 1984, the City of Carlsbad annexes the lagoon from private owners. In 1985 the lagoon becomes a priority for environmental preservation, and in 1986 the lagoon is proposed as the site for a mitigation project for the Port of Los Angeles. The Port of Los Angeles needed a mitigation site in order to expand the port facility. Restoring the Batiquitos Lagoon justified the destruction of habitat in San Pedro Bay. The Batiquitos Lagoon Enhancement Plan is formed in 1987. Restoration and dredging of the lagoon starts 1994 and finishes in 1997. In 1996 the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation received a $162,000 grant which was spent on restoration, signs, educational facilities, trail improvements, and re-vegetation of native plants.

There has been minimal maintenance since the restoration project. In 2000-2001, maintenance dredging is performed on the lagoon, however, the lagoon is beginning to silt up again and will likely require more dredging in the near future.

Other helpful links: