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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Lagoon Restoration Opponents Throng Council Chambers and Call for Action

• State Plan’s Critics Want Local Officials to Jump into Fray

BY BILL KOENEKER


Critics of the Malibu Lagoon restoration proposal dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with “Save Malibu Lagoon,” and brandishing hand-lettered protest signs came to the Malibu City Council chambers this week to urge members to meet as soon as possible on the proposal projected to start at the beginning of summer.
“We asked the lagoon destruction project be on the next agenda,” said Marcia Hanscom, who has spearheaded opposition and is currently involved in litigation to stop the project. “We are surprised and puzzled why the city did not hold hearings. It makes no sense,” she added.
Some of the critics scolded the council for not taking a stronger stand on the proposal, saying the planned bulldozing will produce truckloads of fill that will disrupt the already burdened Pacific Coast Highway.
“We do have it on the agenda in April,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte.
“It is not our lagoon. Our opinion is not the final word. It is complicated science. When Laura and I met with Heal the Bay and other groups, we asked about if it would help clean the water. They said, ‘no,’” he said.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich countered critics by stating the council has already taken action.
“We agreed that the work should not begin in June. Every council member agreed. We asked the mayor to go to the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission meeting and talk about it,” she said.
Conley Ulich said she also wanted a clearer picture of which meetings were and were not attended by the critics, since so many have complained they had no notice or did not know about it.
The council member drilled biologist Roy Van de Hoek. “Where you or were you not in this room during those meetings?” she demanded to know.
Van de Hoek replied, “I was never at the Environmental Impact Report meetings. I was at the stakeholders’ meetings.”
“I remember you being there. What meeting did you go to?” Conley Ulich insisted.
Van de Hoek answered, “The Malibu Creek Watershed meetings.”
Then Conley Ulich asked if he had ever bid on the project, whereupon Van de Hoek answered in the negative.
The council member went on to explain that even if the city takes a position there is no promise that it could influence the outcome.
“This council cares deeply. We have already asked for it to be postponed,” she said.
There was discussion about when the item could be put on the agenda. Conley Ulich suggested in March. That was turned down as too soon and it was explained that the meeting on March 28 was a ceremonial meeting.
Thorsen said there was too much material and work that needs to be gone over by the staff in order to try to rush the meeting date.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she had tried to educate herself about the lagoon. “A lot of people disagree,” she noted.
What she said she learned was “there were a lot of public meetings years ago. Then there was no funding. The letter Jim wrote was important to us. If the water quality is not the number one goal of the restoration, if the water is not better, we did not want to be penalized on it. Did we vote on this to stop it or postpone it?” she asked.
Mayor John Sibert said he raised the issue of the timing of the project at the SMBRC meeting and was told it has to do with the nesting of birds and a funding timeline. “That is not something we can control,” he said.
The mayor said he had advice for both sides. “We need to look at the science,” he said. “There are assertions, but not evidence. That influences public opinion, but does not get to the verifiable truth. We need thoughtful sound scientific evidence,” he added.

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