Santa Margarita River Fish Passage & Bridge Replacement Project

Project Lead: CalTrout

Location of Project: 33.413908N, -117.241300W

Description of Project: This fish passage project on the Santa Margarita River in San Diego County addresses a principal threat to endangered Southern California steelhead by removing a low-flow river crossing that is a fish passage barrier, and replacing it with a new bridge.

​The Santa Margarita River is a high priority river designated in the NMFS (2012) Southern Steelhead Recovery Plan; and fish passage barrier removal is one of the highest priority tasks for recovery. Bridge replacement at Sandia Creek Drive near Fallbrook, CA will open 12 miles of upstream prime spawning and rearing habitat. It will leverage recently completed downstream fish passage work on Camp Pendelton that remediated the only other barrier on the mainstem of the river. Replacement of Sandia Creek Drive bridge will provide unimpeded passage for steelhead to historic habitat to the current limit of anadromy 30 miles inland at the headwaters.

​Goals of the project include:

    1. Provide fish passage to endangered steelhead
    2. Restore riverine ecosystem processes by building a bridge that restores natural river hydrology and improves >1 acre of riparian habitat for multiple species including endangered least bell’s vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher and arroyo toad.
    3. Increase resiliency to climate change by protecting the public from the hazardous flood impacts of the existing bridge and enhancing a regionally important wildlife migration corridor
    4. provide educational and recreational opportunities through improved access to the Santa Margarita Trail Preserve. 

Building off of significant investments from California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the State Coastal Conservancy in support of the development of 65% designs and geotechnical borings analysis, Forum funding for this project will be coupled with CalTrout and agency cost share to support engineering structural design to 100% level for the final bridge design. Deliverables are interim and final structural design for the bridge. The total project cost for design is $1,176,060 and for construction is $16M including 30% contingency. The finalized 65% design, CEQA permitting and early civil and structural 100% design are either currently funded or will be covered by cost share from other organizations. Construction is expected to begin fall 2021.

Project Partners:  State Coastal Conservancy, San Diego County, the Wildlands Conservancy, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, USFWS, Fallbrook Public Utility District, Fallbrook Trails Council, CalTrout, and Trout Unlimited.