Mission Bay was once the San Diego River Estuary

Slough (sloo) n.

  1. A stagnant swamp, marsh, bog, or pond, especially as part of a bayou, inlet, or backwater
  2. A place of deep mud or mire
  3. A shallow lagoon
Wetlands provide an important ecological niche. For migrating and local birds, they provide a rich source of food, a place for resting and for nesting. It is estimated that 95 percent of California’s historical wetlands have been lost to development.

Famosa Slough 1951The Famosa Slough was originally a part of the Mission Bay wetland complex known as False Bay. Sediments fed this complex from the San Diego River and local watersheds. The prospect of oil in the 1930s lead to exploratory drilling on the south side of the Slough. Famosa Slough was gradually isolated from Mission Bay due to: the Ocean Beach trolley tracks; land fill for temporary construction related to World War II; and the channeling of the San Diego River.

In the 1970s, almost two acres of the Slough were filled (without permits) for the convenience of nearby construction projects. This aroused public outrage. Since then, the destruction of the Slough has been resisted due to the watchfulness of several local citizens groups, major environmental groups, and a number of concerned individuals. Plans had been announced on several occasions to build a large condominium complex on the slough, but were deferred due to the environmental importance of the slough.

Current Ownership and Management

The City of San Diego owns the 12-acre channel portion and the 25-acre southern portion of the Slough. The southern portion was acquired by the city in September 1990. Both portions are accessible by the public. Five benches are located at key viewing areas.(see map)

The Slough is managed as a wetland preserve by the San Diego Park and Recreation Department with the help of the Friends of Famosa Slough. An Enhancement Plan was developed with the support of the California Coastal Conservancy and published in 1993. The Plan defines a sequence of improvements for wildlife habitat value, water quality, and visitor amenities. Some enhancement projects are completed while others are in the planning states. Funding has been granted from public and private sources for some of the larger projects.

Recent Enhancements

In 2000, work was completed on the creation of three water treatment ponds near the south parking lot that capture sediment, trash, and nutrients from street runoff. These ponds have made a measurable improvement in the quality of the water that flows into the Slough.

A single sediment pond was completed in the spring of 2003. It is located along the southeast side of the Slough. The pond captures sediment from about 30 acres of the adjoining watershed. This project (an Adobe Creek mitigation project) also created a third of an acre wetlands area and removed a dozen large non-native trees.

The Friends of Famosa Slough were awarded a grant to remove construction rubble from the area to the south of West Point Loma Boulevard. This work (completed in December 2005) has added nearly an acre of wetland area and was landscaped with native plants and a walking path. The peninsula that extended from this area has been made into an island and thereby enhance the tidal flow in the Slough as well as providing a nesting area for birds safe from predators.

The culvert extension project was completed in 2008.  The project included repairing and extending a second 24-inch concrete pipe between the channel and the Slough, under West Point Loma Boulevard.  It also included cleaning out the other pipe to allow it to function better.  The project has substantially improved tidal flushing, especially on the days with extreme tides.  In the process it improves water quality and has allowed saltmarsh habitat to advance into areas that were previously occupied by fresh and brackish water habitat.  We expect that it has also improved the fisheries value of the Slough but we have not verified that.