San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration

shore birds

The San Dieguito Wetlands straddle 460 acres east and west of the I-5 near the Del Mar Fairgrounds. A quarter million cars pass the site every year; however, many people are unaware of the site’s importance to Southern California’s unique coastal and marine environments.

What was once a military facility and home to discarded fuel tanks is today one of the largest estuaries on the West Coast and thriving with hundreds of bird species and fish.

Protecting sensitive habitat and vegetation

SDG&E helped restore 150 acres of wetlands that are now a fish nursery and refuge for migrating waterfowl. Endangered birds using the wetlands include least terns, Belding's savannah sparrows, light-footed clapper rails, and Western snowy plovers. They are also home to ospreys, Northern harriers, American kestrels, more than 30 varieties of duck, and other migratory birds that use it as a rest stop on the coastal avian highway. 

From a recreational standpoint, the restoration project added a coastal segment of the Coast to Crest Trail that follows the San Dieguito River from Julian. The trail protects sensitive habitat and vegetation while allowing public enjoyment of the wetlands area, which has quickly become one of the most popular birdwatching destinations in the county.

Our partners

SDG&E is partnering with community groups like the San Diego Audubon Society, which hosts tours for birdwatchers and naturalists, as well as Ocean Connectors, which hosts field trips for underserved students to teach them about wetlands restoration.

Other partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority and the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, which help manage the San Dieguito Wetlands through manpower or additional funding to programs like Ocean Connectors.

In partnership with Southern California Edison, SDG&E helped restore and protect this vital habitat as one of three environmental projects offsetting any adverse impact on marine life by the ocean water cooling system of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, or SONGS.

Project funding

The $90-million restoration project was officially dedicated in 2011; however, funding for monitoring and managing the wetlands is ongoing.

    Did You Know?

    The wetlands are roughly three times the size of SeaWorld.

    They are now home to more than 12 million fish and 200 bird species.