U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

News Release

Meeting Set to Explain Pescadero Lagoon Breach

Public Invited to Site Briefing September 12

August 30, 2012

Pescadero Lagoon

Pescadero Lagoon. Photo Credit: Eric Huber, UC Berkeley

Media Contacts:
Sarah Swenty, (916) 414-6571 direct, (530) 665-3310 cell, sarah_swenty@fws.gov

Sacramento - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service are moving forward on the proposed manual breach of the seasonal sandbar at Pescadero Lagoon.  The project is an effort to prevent a fish kill this year and to learn more about how the lagoon system works.   The goal is to gather data to better inform future decisions on the long term management of the system.

Pescadero Lagoon is just south of Half Moon Bay, California. It is one of the largest and most unique of the lagoons on the central coast of California, where fish kills have been observed during a number of years, those fish kills occurring at the time of the natural breach of the sandbar.

The planned breach, done in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Game and California State Parks, will take place sometime in the next few weeks, depending on the timing of the sandbar formation.

Pescadaro Lagoon Mouth

The mouth of Pescadero Lagoon. Photo Credit, California State Parks

To explain the breaching, the agencies involved will conduct a briefing for the public on September 12, 2012 at 2 p.m.  That briefing will take place at the parking lot off Highway 1 that overlooks the lagoon, on the ocean side of Highway 1, approximately 200 yards north of the intersection of Highway 1 and Pescadero Road.

This manual breaching, using volunteer crews with hand shovels, not mechanical equipment, is being done as an effort to maintain sufficient water quality in the lagoon and to reduce the likelihood of a fish kill. All of the partners listed are in agreement that this project should move forward with the results closely monitored and evaluated to obtain information that may be useful in working towards the conservation and recovery of listed species and other aquatic life in Pescadero marsh.  

To allow for this manual breaching, California State Parks prepared and issued an Initial Study/Negative Declaration (IS/ND) to evaluate the potential environmental effects of issuing a Right of Entry permit to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center to conduct the proposed Lagoon Ecological Function Project.

“The threatened and endangered species native to the lagoon can make simple solutions extremely difficult but the partners working together today are demonstrating how combined will can identify potential solutions,” observed Susan Moore, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. 


Steelhead being measured during a study in Pescadero Lagoon. Photo Credit, Josh Fuller, NMFS

Continuing the partnership, after an independent science panel evaluates the data gathered from the breach and other sources, the partners intend to work together to implement appropriate management activities for long-term solutions.

Pescadero Lagoon is an extremely complex ecosystem, with eight special status plant species, ten wildlife species and two creeks. There are three federal threatened species: the Central California Coast steelhead, the California red-legged frog, and the Western snowy plover.  There are two federal endangered species: the tidewater goby and the San Francisco garter snake.  In addition, the Western pond turtle is the only native turtle in California and it is listed as a Species of Concern by the California Department of Fish and Game.  Although coho salmon are not currently found in the Pescadero Creek watershed, the watershed, including the lagoon, is designated critical habitat for this species. 

For the last 11 years in a row, threatened steelhead in Pescadero lagoon have died immediately following the initial fall breach of the sandbar that separates the lagoon from the Pacific Ocean.  Last year, 235 dead steelhead were collected, including pre-spawn adults. State and Federal agencies (i.e., California Department of Parks and Recreation [State Parks], CDFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS], the NOAA Restoration Center, and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service) are partnering to address the fish kill and long-term restoration actions.

Last updated: December 4, 2017