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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

City Still Has Not Made Lagoon Study Decision

• Critics Call for Another Approach as Time Runs Out for the $25,000 Project Review

BY BILL KOENEKER

There is still no agreement about who should review the Malibu Lagoon documentation pertaining to the restoration project, according to Wetlands Defense Fund head Marcia Hanscom, who told the Malibu City Council Monday night maybe another approach should be attempted.
Her associate, Roy van de Hoeck, the science director of the Wetlands Defense Fund, acknowledged that scientists do have biases and that maybe another approach could be each side choose two experts so that both sides would have their own reviewers of the documentation. “The city council could give guidance to the city manager,” said Van de Hoeck. City Manager Jim Thorsen was not at the council meeting.
“We could reach an understanding that all of the three or four scientists would be dividing up the $25,000,” he added.
Two weeks ago Hanscom and Van de Hoeck, who are critics of the Malibu Lagoon restoration project accused the Department of Parks and Recreation for dragging its heels and not providing the documents needed nor making a recommendation for a consultant to review the paperwork for a $25,000 study to evaluate the restoration proposal for a city council decision on whether to support or oppose it.
Hanscom, who is spearheading opposition to the restoration plans, said it was not true that her group had not submitted information and blamed State Parks..
However, Suzanne Goode, senior environmental scientist for State Parks, said that was not the case.
“Our documents were either submitted at the same time or before Marcia's. I've given everything [to the city] last week,” she said.
Goode also countered Hanscom’s claims about the recommendations.
Councilmember John Sibert, who is running for reelection, urged his colleagues on the city council several weeks ago to allocate $25,000 for an independent study of the reports and documents related to the Malibu Lagoon restoration in order for the council to take a position. It was given a 30-day timeline.
Hanscom this week said at the least the city could call for an Environmental Impact Report supplemental or rescind the letters sent to the California Coastal Commission in support.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who has been most strident in her opposition, seemed unimpressed by the newly offered solution.
“Then we will have the battle of the project experts,” she said. “Let’s use common sense. This is not a restoration. It is not natural. Let Mother Nature go. Using clean drinking water funds to create this is wrong.
[It’s] something that is not. It is wrong for Malibu. Stand up and be counted. It is time to take a hard look at this. Time to stand up and make a decision,” she said.
Conley Ulich said the city was willing to file an amicus brief during the fight against the LNG port. “The mayor could meet with the governor,” she added.
Conley Ulich picked up on a theme Hanscom had talked about how the city oversaw phase one and then did not oversee phase two.
“What happened?” asked Conley Ulich, directing the question to City Attorney Christi Hogin.
“I was not involved in that decision,” Hogin answered.
Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said she believed phase one was wholly within the city’s jurisdiction, but would have to research and report back to the council about phase two.
“This goes back to local control,” said Conley Ulich. “This is insanity. I have legal questions about the process, I will be asking Christi Hogin. I will make a report on March 12.”
Sibert has repeatedly said the study needs to be done in a timely matter. “We need to sort out the assertions from the evidence and find out which is what in the lagoon.”
Sibert had previously said he was not looking for another study, but rather have an independent consultant to look at the facts.
Sibert initially indicated there are so many claims and counter claims he wanted to see that corrected.
Responding to charges that he wanted to delay the matter until after the election, Sibert said, “I want to see this done before the election. We need to agree on who is going to be doing this. We are not on opposites,” he said.
“This study may or may not be done by the election,” said Conley Ulich, who previously challenged Sibert saying he could have called for the study nine months ago. “I want to know why Councilmember Sibert had not called for it then. They could have been studying this. What happened in the last nine months? Is it now nine months later because of the campaign?” Conley Ulich asked.
“I resent that statement,” shot back Sibert. “It is not [because of the city council] campaign. I did not say that about that.”
When it came time to pony up the $25,000, Conley Ulich said she was going to support the allocation, but did not want the researcher to be from NOAA, and the study must be done in 45 days.
Councilmember Lou La Monte, at the time, said he was going to consider the matter based on the scientific evidence.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner defended Sibert, saying his colleague took a fair stand.
“I think we should follow through. The USGS could do this. But we do need it in thirty days,” he said.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she too wanted the information. “I’m hearing things tonight I know are absolutely not true. I want to support this.”

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