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The wetlands intersected by I-5 just south of Via de la Valle, looks like a major construction project is underway. Isn't that environmentally protected real estate?

-- Keith W. Turner, Encinitas

Hey, Matt:

Settle an argument. My friend and I have noticed the construction equipment at the wetlands near Del Mar Racetrack. He claims it's a wetlands reclamation project. I say some developers bought that land and are about to put a home there.

-- Damon, via e-mail

Damon's my kind of clear-eyed realist. The damn construction weasels won another round, right? Wrong, actually. All the hubbub is a wetland reclamation project. Or a wetland rebuilding project, more like it. A 440-acre piece of the San Dieguito Lagoon is being rehabbed to create a tidal salt marsh. They'll also be shoving around a lot of boulders and dirt to create a flood-control levee. Backhoes can't replicate nature, but the hope is that by 2009 it will provide some new marshland for coastal plants and animals. The project is funded by SDG&E -- in one of those "mess up place A and compensate by restoring place B" deals the state permits. This is for fish and fish-egg loss at San Onofre.

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