Santa Margarita River – Sandia Creek Fish Passage

Santa Margarita River - Sandia Creek Fish Passage

Home | Key Initiatives | Reconnect Habitat | Santa Margarita River - Sandia Creek Fish Passage

Project Goal:

The proposed bridge replacement project on the Santa Margarita River at Sandia Creek Drive removes a high priority fish passage barrier, improves trail user experience and safety, protects the public from flood impacts, and increases quality of riparian and river habitat for multiple species. 

Access to 12 miles of upstream habitat, and restores over 1 acre of stream at the project site.

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Project Stages

35% Planning and Design

65% Planning and Design

100% Planning, Design, and Permitting


Estimated Completion Date:
2020 construction


Project Funders


Coastal Conservancy

Fish Affected:

Project Description

The Santa Margarita River offers a prime opportunity to reestablish a steel head population in Southern California. It is lightly impacted by urbanization over 27 miles and has a spring creek-like character in the upper watershed, protected in the Santa Margarita Ecological Preserve. The Santa Margarita River historically supported steelhead and still has natural channel characteristics necessary for migration and propagation of the species.

However, fish passage barriers have prevented steelhead from accessing upper reaches of the river that contain good spawning and rearing habitat. The proposed fish passage barrier remediation project in the Santa Margarita River is one of the most tractable projects in Southern California that can provide passage for steelhead to quality habitat within 5 years. Removal of the fish passage barrier at the Sandia Creek Drive bridge and replacement with a new bridge will provide juvenile and adult steelhead access to 12 miles of upstream habitat. Later this year, the project will head to 100% design phase-we are now seeking grant funding for implementation.

Project Partners:

Trout Unlimited
Engineering Firms KPFF and River Focus
California Dept. of  Fish and Wildlife
State Coastal Conservancy
San Diego County
National Marine Fisheries Service.

Latest Project Info:

CalTrout Awarded $4.9M to Pursue Reconnect Habitat and Protect the Best Projects

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