Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dam Plan Is Controversial

BY BILL KOENEKER

Some Serra Retreat residents came to council chambers two weeks ago to talk to the city council about the latest development in the proposed removal of the Rindge Dam.
Anne Payne, a 37-year resident of Malibu, told members she went to a State Parks meeting on the issue.
“I’m one of 100 property owners in Serra Retreat. They were talking about having $30 to $100 million and they were rolling their greedy hands in talking about taking down the Rindge Dam,” she said.
“They talked about wouldn’t it be fun to sell the sediment. They snickered about it. I’m not a [Tidewater] Goby. I’m not a Steelhead. But I feel like an endangered species,” she added. “We have owned property on Malibu Creek for years.”
Another neighbor, who said he lives across the creek from Payne, said, “It is an absolute utter waste of money to remove the dam. I’ve seen steelhead.”
Later during public comment, Robert van de Hoek said the dam has become part of the landscape and should be studied that way. “Think of it as a waterfall,” he said.
Councilmember John Sibert said he has had some of the same concerns “as some of these folks,” and suggested he would talk to the coalition of cities, which are upstream of the dam, known as the Las Virgenes-Malibu  Conference of Governments or the COG who might share some of the concerns.
For years the dam has been studied for possible removal, with advocates saying the creek upstream would provide habitat for steelhead if the concrete structure was removed.
Others have suggested there could be unintended consequences and the removal process might damage the downstream habitat.
Surfers have worried the process might somehow disrupt the pebble rock reef responsible for the world-famous waves
Other studies were carried out suggesting the dam has historical significant because of the type of dam it is.
Others downstream, especially those living in Serra Retreat have expressed concern how the remnants of the dam might impact creek flow especially during flooding cycles.
The dam is 100 feet tall and has filled to the top with sediment. The runoff from Malibu Creek creates a waterfall as it spills over the dam.
How to remove the dam and what to do with the sediment are other issues that have led to scenarios from trucks driving out the dam and sediment to helicopters pulling out the debris because the trucks are not able to maneuver in the steep terrain.
The Rindges—the last family to own the entire Malibu Rancho, built the dam in 1926, reportedly using railroad materials from the abandoned Rindge Railroad for at least a portion of the building materials.
The dam was constructed in two parts around a natural stone pier.
By 1950, the reservoir behind the dam was already full of silt.
Today, the upper dam supports a small wetland ecosystem that supports arroyo willows, rushes and tules. The dam functions like a waterfall during wet winters.
It remains difficult to access and largely undisturbed, except for the several generations-worth of  graffiti.
The pool below the dam is even more inaccessible  but popular with the Los Angeles cliff diving community, who scramble down the steep ravine to use the rocks surrounding the deep water as diving platforms.

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