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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

State Parks Rejoinder


The debate over a California State Parks Malibu Lagoon Restoration Plan has left many Malibu residents bewildered. The plan, which involves dewatering the portion of the lagoon that was reconstructed in the 1980s, removing sediment and fill, deepening and reconfiguring the channels, restoring a portion of the former parking area to wetlands, and removing the artificial islands and the bridges that connect them to the beach, has received support from the California Coastal Commission, and numerous environmental advocates, ranging from Heal the Bay to the blogger known as L.A. Creek Freak but it has also generated opposition and a lawsuit, sponsored by Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All, and Save Malibu Lagoon, that has attracted considerable attention in Malibu and the support of a variety of interests, including surfers, birders and area residents.
Surfers say they fear that the increased water volume in the reconfigured lagoon will increase water quality issues. There are also fears that the changes will have a negative impact on the surfbreak. The 1983 reconstruction is blamed for permanently altering the surf at first and second point.
Birders have expressed concern that they will lose access to one of the premiere birdwatching areas in Southern California and that species disturbed by the project may not return.
Some opponents have expressed concerns that the reconfigured lagoon will eliminate habitat for the endangered tidewater goby.
The fish was introduced to the lagoon in the 1990s, and has reportedly thrived. Evidence, opponents say, that the lagoon is a functioning ecosystem.
Restoration plan proponents present a very different picture of the lagoon, calling the 31-acre wetland seriously impaired, with limited biodiversity, dead-end channels that are rapidly silting up and a critical lack of dissolved oxygen.
California State Parks representative and restoration plan advocate and spokesperson Suzanne Goode spoke to the Malibu Surfside News this week to clarify several issues.
Part of the problem, Goode says, is the fact that issues like the silt that is filling the channels, the artificial fill that blocks circulation and the low oxygen levels aren’t immediately apparent.
“It looks beautiful,” Goode told The News. “But there’s low dissolved oxygen, the channels are slowly choking up with silt, the topography is oriented the wrong way, its too steep, there’s poor circulation.
“We’ve learned a lot more [about wetlands restoration] in the past 20 years,” Goode explained.
Goode describes the earlier restoration effort, which replaced baseball fields and Caltrans road fill dating from the construction of Pacific Coast Highway in the 1940s with the current arrangement of islands and channels, as a “low budget effort.”
The current plan, Goode says, addresses the problems created by the original reconstruction, including the dead-end channels that are too shallow to allow silt and toxins to be flushed, and have caused low oxygen levels, which cause die-offs.
Phase one of the plan, which relocated the parking lot closer to the highway, replaced the pavement with permeable materials, installed a bioswale to catch runoff, has already been completed.
Phase two, which requires bulldozers to remove more than 88,000 cubic yards of fill and silt and the deepening and reconfiguring of the artificial portion of the wetlands, is drawing considerable eleventh-hour protest.
The complete Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Plan, including maps and diagrams is available online at

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