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:

Remove a high priority fish passage barrier, improve trail user experience and safety, protect the public from flood impacts, and increase the quality of riparian and river habitat for multiple species. 

General Contractor Request for Proposals now open. View more information below.

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Project Stages

35% Planning and Design

65% Planning and Design

100% Planning, Design, and Permitting


Estimated Completion Date:
2022 construction


Project Funders


Coastal Conservancy

California Natural Resource Agency

California Fish Passage Forum

State of California Wildlife Conservation Board


Fish Affected:

Project Description

The Santa Margarita River is one of our high priority rivers targeted for restoring anadromous steelhead populations. As one of the few perennial rivers in Southern California, it offers a prime opportunity to support our most resilient native species - the endangered southern steelhead - with complete headwaters-to-ocean watershed access. 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. The replacement bridge will also provide much needed flood control in this high-usage public thoroughfare, improving safe passage for thousands of cars every day. The project is in final design phase; the project team is working with San Diego County to implement it. CalTrout has secured nearly $18M to date for bridge construction, slated to begin in fall of 2022.

Project Partners:

The Wildlands Conservancy

County of San Diego

National Marine Fisheries Service.

Trout Unlimited

California Dept. of  Fish and Wildlife

State Coastal Conservancy

CA Natural Resources Agency

Wildlife Conservation Board Project Team

Engineering Firms KPFF and River Focus



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