Tidelands on Mission Bay
Tidelands on Mission Bay. Photo courtesy EIC

The ocean drew us, almost 40 years ago, to San Diego. Every year, millions come for the same reason. Clean water and the abundance of sea life is the lifeblood of San Diego, the engine of our economy.

Like most people who spend a good chunk of their time on or in the water, I never used to think much about tidal marshes. I happily harvested and ate our delicious seafood, never giving much thought to where these creatures came from and why there seemed to be fewer every year. I’m slow learner, but I eventually figured out that no wetlands means no seafood. With no wetlands, our beloved ocean will simply become more and more polluted.

Ever since the eradication of our local wetlands in the 1940s and 1950s, Mission Bay’s water quality has suffered. And through an unfortunate combination of history and geography, the northeast corner remains the most polluted corner of the bay.

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Fortunately, for more than 30 years, dedicated people have been working on a solution. In 1990, the Mission Bay Natural Resource Management Plan promised us that, someday, the Campland/De Anza Cove area would become a nature preserve. On Sept. 24, 2018, after almost 30 years of diligent effort and painful compromise, the San Diego Audubon Society, the Coastal Conservancy, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and ReWild Mission Bay published a modest proposal for a solution.

In their Wetlands Restoration Feasibility Study Report, these groups meticulously analyzed three possible options. Of these, the “wildest” option is indisputably the best. It’s the best bang for the buck, the best for water quality, the best for habitat restoration and preservation, the best for recreation, and the best for addressing the disastrous effects of seemingly inevitably rising sea level.

Our City Council, in seeking to expand and extend the Campland and De Anza Cove leases, is willfully ignoring the years of hard work of thousands of people who truly love San Diego. Not only does their proposal give away $8 million in unnecessary tax breaks, but it delays any progress on real solutions for at least five years. In return, all we get is an unenforceable promise to remove a few trailers, perhaps in four or five years.

Some may argue that rewilding this one tiny corner of Mission Bay is too expensive, that we can’t afford it. But this argument ignores the fact that if we do not take action now, the condition of our bay and our ocean will continue to deteriorate, wreaking havoc on our economy, our environment, and all the things we love about San Diego. Doing nothing is the short-sighted, catastrophically expensive, wrong choice.

People might make fun of our city slogan, but I think it says everything: we all want San Diego to actually be America’s Finest City. I ask our City Council to do the job they were elected to do—to think beyond their own terms and do what’s right for our city, our bay, and our environment.

Please, for the sake of future generations, take this small step and move forward with restoring the Campland and De Anza Cove wetlands, work with ReWild Mission Bay and other stakeholders to find a solution that works for campers, paddlers, boaters, birders, bicyclists, and everyone who loves the area, and vote NO on the currently proposed Campland lease extension.

Mike Laude has been a resident of San Diego since 1982.