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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lagoon Debate Takes on Hostile Foe Dimension

• Differences Are Given Political Spin


The State Parks Department appears to be embracing what one observer described as a “Cold War” mentality in the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project debate.
A memo circulated to Adamson House docents repeatedly refers to opposition to the plan for dewatering, dredging and re-contouring the western portion of the lagoon, as “anti-restoration propaganda.”
“Some local activists have been distributing misinformation and self-serving propaganda against this project, which has also been endorsed by several related organizations,” the memo states.
“When conducting tours or encountering visitors on the site, you may receive questions about the project. Attached you will find a fact sheet about the project, which you may print out to which you can refer, as necessary,” the memo states.
“Any anti-project propaganda in the form of signs or posters found in the state park should be removed and destroyed,” the memo instructs.
Docents are informed that they should tell visitors that “the lagoon in not healthy,” that the “only way to correct the poor circulation is to remove old fill and reconfigure the channels to a more natural pattern,” and that “wildlife will be protected.” The script states that a proposal by project opponents, including “use of [a] “hydro-rake,” is “inferior to the [parks’] plan.”
“Hydro-rake is a backhoe with a rake attachment that removes excess vegetation and sediment. This will not address the poor topography. Regulatory agencies will not allow work in wet channels. Hydro-rake would stir up sediments and harm fish. Hydro-rake solution would need to be repeated every few years. The proposed project is self-sustaining,” the fact sheet concludes.
Lagoon project opponents spoke out at the Malibu City Council this week during public comment. The council is set to officially discuss the issue on April 11.
State park representatives have not been actively involved in the debate over the project, apparently content to leave the defense of the project, which has already approved state-level approval to proceed, in the hands of activist and surfer Bob Purvey, who has longstanding ties to Heal the Bay, which worked with the state to develop the project and the Malibu Coastal Conservancy.
Wetlands activist Marcia Hanscom, who has spearheaded the lawsuit opposing the project, told the city council that the lagoon is in the permanent jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. “[The city’s] Local Coastal Program contains a specific policy,” she said. “Both phases [of the project] must be approved by the city and the commission. It seems you must take action. Bob Purvey has said the city has no say.”
“I’ve been looking at the budget online,” project opponent Ann Doneen said. There are three budgets. They conflict with each other.”
Surfer Athena Shlien said she was concerned that the council would provide “staged democracy,” instead of true democracy. “The mayor is on the board of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. I’m hoping [his] loyalty is with the City of Malibu.”
Longtime Colony resident Carol Moss asked Mayor John Sibert to recuse himself on April 11. “There seems to be a conflict.” Moss added that “[the project] is presented as a done deal. It’s not a done deal,” she said. “The city council has more impact than you know.”
Project opponents are hosting a “stop the bulldozers” information and fundraising event on Friday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Duke’s Restaurant. They say that if the lawsuit they have filed is not heard in time to stop the project scheduled to begin June 1, they will file for an injunction.
Information on the opposition effort is available online at
Information on the state parks project, including the Final Environmental Impact Report and maps and diagrams, is available at
The city council agenda will be available next week at

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