By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
What a dump. That was Athena Shlien's thought when she saw huge Malibu Lagoon for the first time. She was walking through a marsh that makes up part of the lagoon on her way to Surfrider Beach, perhaps the most popular surfing spot in L.A. County and the historic epicenter of surf culture, where Hollywood filmed such movies as Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo. From a dirt path that meanders over quaint wooden bridges, Shlien spotted green muck and potato chip bags floating atop the water.
She felt pity for the creatures living in this sorry place, just a couple hundred feet from an enclave of perfect beachfront movie-star homes called Malibu Colony. But as the years passed, she noticed the lagoon area growing more lush with reeds and wildlife. The green muck was still in the water, but the chirping grew louder — ducks, coots, pelicans and great egrets.
"The birds were happier," Shlien says. "You can see it in people, you can see it in a dog when you're walking down the street and the dog looks at you and smiles."
Malibu Lagoon is the last stop for Malibu Creek, which starts on the western edge of the San Fernando Valley in the Santa Monica Mountains and flows about 11 miles to Pacific Coast Highway, crossing under a highway bridge and pooling in the 31-acre lagoon before slicing through sandbars to spill into the Pacific.
In the summer, a natural sand berm prevents the main body of lagoon water from spilling out onto Surfrider Beach. In the winter, when rain comes, the lagoon bursts through to the Pacific. Its western flank is a small but deeply prized wetland, one of the last in Southern California, where humans have famously drained and destroyed more than 90 percent of coastal wetlands — the worst record in the nation.
The seemingly thriving marsh is home to plants and wildlife not usually seen so close to a vast city, including the endangered tidewater goby and, at times, threatened steelhead trout whose southernmost run on the Pacific Coast is believed to be Malibu Creek.
"This is a rare little jewel," says Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation's Mark Abramson. "It's definitely one of our most unique types of habitats — a coastal marsh, a tidal lagoon. We're lucky that it's in State Parks' hands or it would almost certainly be a development."
But a restoration plan to drain and bulldoze a large swath of Malibu Lagoon's channels to the sea, wiping out much of their life, is shovel-ready to begin. It has the backing of powerful state and local government agencies, plus big environmental groups and their leaders, including Abramson. They claim Malibu Lagoon's too-sluggish channels are sick, and only a radical cure will do.
The only thing stopping them is a San Francisco judge, who issued a temporary injunction in May, tentatively agreeing with a ragtag collection of activists who enjoy far less political and financial heft than the proponents. The opponents argued in court that the restoration plan was almost sure to kill more habitat and wildlife than claimed, while failing to fix the lagoon's fundamental circulation problem.
"You're talking about a small number of people," Abramson says dismissively. "They've been able to cause enough shit to slow this thing down."
Abramson and Heal the Bay president Mark Gold say that while everything above the water looks fine, the world below Malibu Lagoon is veering toward disaster. The marsh channels west of the main pool are filling with nutrients, much of them from septic systems and fertilizer used in the vast 109-square-mile watershed that feeds Malibu Creek. The water's oxygen level fluctuates wildly. Tiny creatures in the mud are dying.
Proponents are ready to break ground on a $7 million project that would overhaul the western third of the lagoon, removing 13,000 cubic yards of earth and ripping out mature trees, shrubbery, grasses and muck. They pledge extensive efforts to save creatures and plants, but casualties are a certainty.
Opponent and surfer Andy Lyon calls it "scientists gone mad." Sounding much like Abramson in his distant rabble-rousing days, when he fought to clean up Santa Monica Bay, Lyon adds: "And money, money, money."
Nearly a year ago, Shlien saw a booth at the local farmers market with a large photograph of bulldozers tearing up a beach and the words, "Don't let this happen to Malibu."
This must be a joke, she recalls thinking. But the plan was going before the California Coastal Commission just 10 days later, with proponents almost certain to get their final permit. Bulldozing at the lagoon was set to begin the summer of 2011.
Shlien and her boyfriend, Ian Bryant, got up at 4:30 a.m. and drove two hours south for the hearing. She'd never attended a public hearing and didn't know what to expect as she walked into the Oceanside City Council chambers, where the state Coastal Commission meeting was being held.
"I saw all these people that looked like they were kind of liberal or environmentalist," she recalls, "and I thought, 'Look at all these people who are on our side!' "
addressing this wetland without addressing the dam upstream seems bizarre and silly? what are they proposing to do with the dam?
I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. HERE
I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use THIS
RobRoy strikes again, single-handedly destroys Ballona Lagoon:
"Saltmarsh dodder had been introduced prematurely to other parts of the Ballona Lagoon preserve west of Culver Boulevard by Robert “Roy” van de Hoek of the Ballona Institute.
“In a natural functioning ecosystem it would have been fine,” the biologist explained.
According to Read, who manages the Ballona Freshwater Marsh at Playa Vista, the wetlands where the saltmarsh dodder was planted by van de Hoek is destroying not only jaumea but also pickleweed, another native Ballona plant species.
Van de Hoek admits to bringing the parasite to the wetlands in 2003.
Read says reduced tidal flow into the wetlands, coupled with the fact that non-native plants grow in the place of natives after the saltmarsh dodder takes it over has the potential to create “a restoration train wreck.”
Malibu needs the creek back. No Lagoon.Make everyone happy and put the Creek back the way GOD made it.This will make the wave good again. Sucks now yet the crowds come anyway.The economy is good there because of the wave. Kill the wave. Lose the cash.OPEN THE CREEK AT the TOP!
I don't understand how the FALSE "talking points" clearly articulated by the Bulldozer crowd about the lagoon protection heroes only caring about what's above the water were able to shine through on this article.
Surfrider rep. claims that Marcia doesn't care about what's in the water? Has he ever been on a tour with her at the lagoon? She and her biologist partner Roy show people the tremendous amount of life in the water - the millions of fish I saw there this summer, and also dragonfly larvae and many invertebrates.
Some of us have heard the story about Mr. Ambrose claiming there are only "negative" types of species of worms in the lagoon. There are no scientists worth their salt who call any species "negative" - especially when they are natural to the ecosystem being described.
What about the endangered tidewater goby - a fish that is thriving in the lagoon water? The Save the Lagoon crowd talks incessantly about the goby. How was this point missed by the author?
The lawsuit is not the work of just three organizations, even though it was three who initially filed the case. Many, many, many -- thousands -- of people have been involved in trying to raise money to support this cause. Much more is needed to prevent the state from abusing public funding on this debacle. Please visit SaveMalibuLagoon.com and help our case to save the habitat, save the animals, and save the magnificent birds by hitting the "donate" button. This is a beautiful wetlands area with much to lose. In reality we are a very diverse group wanting to save the lagoon -- professionals of all types, highly educated people, scientists, college professors, business leaders, world travelers and sophisticates as well as "rag-tag ex hippies" and open-minded, unconventional folks, artist, surfers, young people, and old people too. When you have your eyes open and can just go there and think and feel, you instinctively know the so-called restoration is wrong. And when you do the research, examine the facts, and look at the history of it, then you KNOW you are right and that this is a boondoggle of the worst kind. Please help us defray the high cost of the lawyers and keep another piece of nature, of the world.... the arctic birds stop off there on their way to South America. It's on the Pacific Flyway. They are magnificent. Don't lose this little piece of heaven!
Everyone that is involved and passionate about this restoration on both sides should check out and read a copy of Dr. Joy Zedler's "Handbook for Restoring Tidal Wetlands." Dr. Zedler documents everything that goes into properly restoring this ecosystem. She presents a variety of case studies and highlights the constraints that these type of projects face in southern California.
What is missing from the story is how the Chumash elders feel about the restoration project. Their ancestors watched as Europeans decimated the coastline and destroyed their culture that was dependent of the natural resources. I bet they are laughing at the all scientists, activists, and interest groups.
It's truly a shame when people like Mark Gold, the beneficiary of much public spending and good will, treat that same public with barely shielded disdain. Time and again, he has used his credentials and his facility with technical language not to explain but to hide the truth, to confuse the public, and to intimidate us with his impatient, imperious "I'm the expert" style.
But news to Dr. Gold: We're not as dumb as you think we are. Take his claims about bacteria:
Gold says there's high fecal-bacteria counts. Is that the naturally occurring bacteria that comes from the abundant bird life in the lagoon and which, according to Jeff Harris, MD, MPH, rarely cause any human diseases? The bacteria for which Gold conceded before the Malibu City Council there would be "no net benefit" from his multi-million-dollar project?
Or is that the bacteria that flows into the lagoon -- and the ocean -- from the rest of the watershed? Gold et al. know the real problem is the larger watershed because the EPA TMDLs they love to cite clearly show that the bacteria count balloons in winter when heavy rains, creeks flows and runoff carry the bacteria down from the mountains and valleys.
Gold and the rest are trying to distract you from a basic principle: Follow the money.
With $7 million -- at least -- on the table to treat a symptom but not the disease, where do you think cash-strapped nonprofits and government agencies are going to focus there efforts?
Fair article, but you mistakenly infer that the judge in San Francisco ruled on the merits of the Marcia Hanscom lawsuit.
Due to incompetence, budget cuts or human error at the Coastal Commission, the judge was never given the "administrative record" that shows the 10-year legal process that the Lagoon Restoration project went through. The judge could not determine, for example, if the state made any evaluation of alternative projects at the lagoon. Of course, the state went through a lengthy process to do just that, but the judge did not have any evidence of that to consider in court.
In other words, the State of California did not produce any evidence whatsoever for the judge to consider, when he evaluated the request for an injunction. The judge was therefore constrained to consider only the allegations in the complaint -- without rebuttal -- and was forced to consider Hanscom's "expert witnesses" testimony only.
Honestly, only in California could a person who runs a group called "Coastal Law Enforcement Action Agency" (another Hanscom-run "non-profit") argue against Heal The Bay's and State Park's efforts to bring the stinky lagoon into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and various state water board orders to clean up this mess.
Only in Malibu could an "environment group" argue that human waste, in the form of poop-laden water flowing in and out of septic tanks below sea level, in the sand, as the tide rises, is NOT a human health hazard. Yes, I live in a community where some people say, with a straight face, "welcome to Malibu, where our s++t don't stink."
The real crimes of pollution coming from Tapia water treatment center into Malibu Creek, and from Pepperdine, and from the shopping centers are what should be the topic of this story and no mention is made how a large part of the existing lagoon area is man made and should be put back the way mother nature had it in the first place.Mr. Malibu
What a great spot. I hope someone gets it right. Mother Nature is the only one who really gets these things right. What we need is a storm to come in and wash away all the beachfront property. Then we don't rebuild them. Everything west of the PCH should be public land. It would end this debate and it would open up a lot of surf spots too.
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