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Annual Inlet Excavation
Reconnecting San Elijo Lagoon with the Pacific Ocean: May 13-17, 2013
Each spring, residents and visitors in Cardiff-by-the-Sea may notice construction equipment and dredging activities at the inlet of San Elijo Lagoon.
The small opening, just south of San Elijo State Beach Campground, is the lagoon's only access to the Pacific Ocean. Keeping the inlet open to the ocean is critical to maintaining the health of San Elijo Lagoon. Left unattended, it could remain closed much of the year from buildup of sand transported by high incoming tides, surf, and storm surges.
The Conservancy’s efforts to keep the inlet open to tidal flushing have substantially improved habitat quality relative to the stagnant conditions that previously developed when the inlet was closed for prolonged periods.
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy experimented with different types of inlet openings between 1994 and 1999. These experimental openings yielded a method that kept the inlet open to the ocean for an average of 79% of the year.
WHY WE DREDGE
The inlet becomes intermittently blocked by an accumulation of sand in the tidal channel during the winter storm cycles. The cool weather helps keep oxygen levels in the lagoon in the safe zone. As temperatures rise in the spring and the demand for oxygen increases, an inlet operation is conducted before problems arise.
A major dredging operation to remove accumulated sand and cobbles can cost nearly $100,000. Timing this procedure in the spring after the winter storm cycle greatly increases the chances of continued inlet circulation throughout the warmer summer months.
A MODIFIED LAGOON