Did You Know We Have A Lagoon?

This is the last of the wetlands in the city of Ensenada
BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

Nestled between the city of Ensenada and the beach, is a hidden jewel that few people know about. Locals call it La Lagunita. Translated to English it would be the Little Lagoon. This lagoon is older than the city, and is the last of 140 wetlands that were scattered around what is now the city. And now this one is threatened by progress.

There is historical significance to this quiet place, as it was used by the Kumiai Indians to establish their camps 2,000 years ago. The Indians could hunt the animals it attracted, use the plants it sheltered, and it provided plenty of water for their daily use.

The lagoon is located just next to what is now the Pacifica development project, and just across the street from the new desal plant that is under construction.

Now would be a great time to visit, since the heavy rains have blessed the little lagoon with plenty of water. And with abundant water comes abundant life, like multiple species of birds, frogs, squirrels, bunnies, and even colorful dragonflies.

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Plants include mostly grass and shrubs, for now, but when the lagoon becomes saturated with water, a healthy crop of carrizo springs up. Carrizo is a bamboo like plant that grows in humid soil or in water and gives shelter to animal life.

Although in the dry season of dry years, the lagoon can be completely dried up, so far it has always filled with water again when the rains return.

The biggest threat to the lagoon is of course development.  The land under it is privately owned by five different owners who were not happy when the land was designated “conservation use” in 2001, as this limits the use of their land. Burdened by this designation, the land cannot be developed until the municipality changes the zoning to commercial or residential, which would make this prime beach front real estate worth millions.

This possibility of course has led to different sneak attempts to dry out the lagoon, filling it with dirt one time, and another time by digging a canal to empty the lagoon into the sea.

Also, the desalinization plant was seen as a threat to dry out the lagoon, as it was believed at first that the facility would divert the natural water that feeds into the lagoon but the desal plant constructors actually lined the waterway with cement, assuring more water reaching the lagoon. One of the owners of the lagoon land actually sued the desal company for invading their land in order to build the waterway, as they want it to dry up, because although the area is currently zoned for conservation purposes, it can be changed back if the lagoon ceased to exist, as happened with the area where Pacifica is right now. Several lagoon hugging groups and other eco minded organizations have been fighting for the area to be designated as a natural protected area not contingent on there being a lagoon there. With this designation a lot more resources would be allocated to the area and it would be actively protected. This process is working its way through the state legislature, and it looks like any day now the lagoon could become a protected area.

Don’t miss the chance to visit this city jewel even if just for a few minutes. It’s not like you have to drive out of your way to get to it.