A Canal’s Dream from San Diego Bay to Mission Bay


In the mid to late 1990s, under the administration of Mayor Susan Golding, the grand idea of ​​creating a channel between the two bays, San Diego Bay and Mission Bay, was alive. With the recent closure of the Naval Training Center – now Liberty Station – there was interest in a canal. It seemed more than a dream at the time.

He has won support for public workshops on the future of the Midway area. And Mayor Golding. For a time at least, the canal plan was nicknamed “Golding’s Locks”. As a UT columnist Michael Smolens reported in 2020:

In 1997, the North Bay Revitalization Advisory Committee recommended that the water link be included in future land use plans, according to the city.

According to a city document profiling the Midway-Pacific Highway Corridor:

“Developing a canal connecting San Diego and Mission Bays through the community of Midway would be a critical step toward revitalizing the community.”

But – now over twenty years later, we can see that the canal plan has never drawn water. It faded, like the fog from Point Loma.

However, now the dream is back!

With the confluence of two events, the dream of a bay-to-bay canal was resurrected. Maybe.

As the redevelopment of the Midway District grabs people’s attention – along with the waterway next to NTC Park set to be transferred from the navy to the city, UT reporter David Garrick brought up the dream of depths of troubled waters near Shelter Island. And the Peninsula News of the Pt Loma Association recently pointed out:

Garrick also resurrected a dream we had heard little about in recent years.

“The shipping channel is a key part of ambitious plans to one day create a bay-to-bay waterway link. Such a link would connect San Diego Bay – at the end of the channel – to the San Diego River and Mission Bay by constructing a channel usable by small boats.

Peninsula News asks, “Would this fit in with the Midway District’s future plans?”

It turns out that the dream of a canal has been around for almost a century. “The project was mentioned in the general plan of the city in 1926”, adds Smolens. Additionally, “The 1974 report ‘Temporary Paradise?’ new “calls for a water connection between the two bays,” says Midway’s profile.

So what was it?

It was a dream to create a waterway no larger than 100 feet wide, surrounded by parks, walking and biking trails, as well as hotels, retail and other uses. All sorts of small craft common to Mission and San Diego bays would have been allowed to cross the channel: kayaks, canoes, rowboats, outriggers, water taxis, small motorboats, and sailboats with retractable masts.

For your information, here are excerpts from plan profile by the City:

The development of a canal connecting San Diego and Mission Bays through the community of Midway would be a critical step towards revitalizing the community. The idea of ​​a bay-to-bay link was documented as early as 1926, when the connection was mentioned in the general plan. The 1974 landmark report, Temporary Paradise? repeated calls for a water connection between the two bays.

However, the development of a canal connecting San Diego and Mission Bays could have negative effects on endangered species, wetlands, and ecologically sensitive habitat areas. Therefore, the canal cannot be constructed without further environmental impact assessment and further modification of the local coastal program land use plan. Planning this area as a linear park or waterway is an alternative Plan that does not require future amendments to the Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan.

Recently, the closure of the Naval Training Center, the re-use of the former Plant 19 site (renamed the Navy’s Old Town Campus) for space and naval warfare research, and the real possibility that the he old main post office and sports arena could be moved or reduced, has reignited interest in the bay-to-bay link as a means of bringing exciting new developments to the community.

A series of public workshops in 1994 resulted in a report recommending construction of the water link. In 1997, the North Bay Revitalization Advisory Committee recommended that the water link be included in future land use plans.

City Profile Action Plan.


Complete development plans for a bay-to-bay water link through the community as an urban and recreational amenity to enhance the image of the community and stimulate revitalization and development.

Such a river link would connect San Diego Bay, from the end of the NTC boat channel, to the San Diego River by constructing a channel that can be navigated by small manual and motorized watercraft. Completion of these plans will require further environmental assessment and modification of the City’s certified land use plans. Develop this area as a linear park or waterway if water connection plans from bay to bay are not approved. …

Channel alignment

Reach 1

From its terminus in NTC, the canal would exit the base and cross Barnett Street near Gate 1. Passing through Barnett, the canal would then pass through the Gateway Village Housing site, with new housing being built on the rest of the plot around the canal.

From there, the canal passes through the paved parking/storage area on the north side of the US Post Office plot, then through part of the west plot of the Old Navy Town campus (former Plant 19 parking lot). ), north of the warehouse currently under construction.

A variant of this alignment would keep the canal running through the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot parallel to Barnett Street, then through the south post office parking lot, then through part of the west parcel of the Old Town campus of the Marine. This alignment is a little less likely, as traversing the MCRD seems incompatible with maritime operations at this time.

Either route ends, for this segment, at Rue Rosecrans north of Boulevard Sports Arena. The preferred alignment and variation takes advantage of existing public lands and keeps the canal at a relatively low and even elevation.

Reach 2

Span 2 brings the channel from Rosecrans Street to I-8. The alignment options in this staff are few. The conceptual alignment begins at Rosecrans Street, between Sports Arena Boulevard and Kurtz Street, which contains the existing private commercial facilities, then the city-owned Glasshouse Square shopping area, Sports Arena and Red Lobster shopping centres.

The canal would exit the community by passing under I-8 west of the Sports Arena. Since the plots concerned are, for the most part, large sites with many possibilities for development, the canal can be located anywhere in these plots to better adapt to the planned development.

Reach 3

When developing plans for this segment, the goal is to locate this segment within the San Diego River flood control channel. The bay-to-bay channel would be constructed as a separate facility within the flood control channel; a jetty separating the two channels would be necessary. The bay-to-bay channel would likely run parallel to the flood control channel along the south rock jetty, then cross to the north to allow craft to exit the channel to the Pacific Ocean and/or Mission Bay.

A gate or lock would probably be needed to protect the canal from bay to bay from flooding during storms. However, until further environmental studies are completed, the canal connecting San Diego and Mission Bays cannot be built.

Channel size

The bay-to-bay canal is envisioned as a navigable route by small hand-powered craft (e.g., kayaks, canoes, outriggers) and small motorized craft (water taxis, towboats ).

Wind-powered boats could only cross the canal with the sail masts retracted. This design feature will reduce the cost of channel construction (water depth can be reduced) and bridge construction (clearance can be reduced). Channel depth need not exceed ten feet at low tide, and deck clearance need not exceed ten feet at high tide.

The conceptual canal design calls for a 200 foot wide canal and associated open space along its route, although variations in width are expected.

These dimensions include a waterway 75 to 100 feet wide, zero to 75 feet for the sides of the channel, which can be sloped back and lined with rockfill or straight-sided concrete, and 25 to 50 feet of sidewalk, bike path, and landscaping on one or both sides. Reductions in channel width should be considered where existing development precludes a wider channel; when the channels or branches of the fingers bring water elements into adjacent areas; and for small plots where the full right-of-way would prevent reasonable development. The width of the channel will also be reassessed following more detailed technical studies.

Channel design

The bay-to-bay channel would be designed as a tidal channel connecting two tidal water bodies. The channel is expected to ebb and flow with the daily tides. The channel would be designed as a 200 foot wide facility as a narrow channel would have the appearance of a ditch at low tide. However, a detailed technical study is required to analyze the currents, sediment transport and amplitude differences between the two water bodies.

What happened to all those past Midway District revitalization projects?

Is the dream still relevant?


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