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
Opponents of the new restoration plan point out the absence of fish kills in the lagoon. But Rich Ambrose, an environmental sciences and engineering professor at UCLA and a technical adviser for the project, says fish "swim up to the surface during the day. Invertebrates living at the bottom can't do that. There are very few worms and clams" living in the lagoon bottom, he says.
But the ecosystem's relative health is a hotly contested issue. The two camps have been debating each other in courtrooms, parking lots and the comments section of Malibu Patch. Like political partisans, they contest every fact and impugn every motive.
The establishment side includes government agencies, such as California State Parks, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, the California Coastal Commission and the California Conservancy, and major environmental organizations Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation.
The opposition includes outspoken activists shunned by the enviro-establishment, a few chapters of the Audubon Society, a mix of surfers, Malibu Colony homeowners and other local neighborhood residents, like Shlien and Lyon.
The establishment accuses the opposition of being out for attention. They particularly focus on Roy Van de Hoek and Marcia Hanscom — two key figures in saving hundreds of acres in the Ballona Wetlands from the Playa Vista luxury development. Their critics say Van de Hoek lacks a Ph.D. and paint Hanscom as a dupe of wealthy Malibu Colony homeowners.
She denies this, noting that her group, Wetlands Defense Fund, has raised a little more than $150,000 from slightly more than 100 donors to fight restoration. The largest donation, $20,000, came from a family in San Francisco. Many Wetlands Defense Fund donors gave $100 or less. Some donations were simply dollar bills dropped into a can.
The attacks on Hanscom and Van de Hoek aren't as vitriolic, however, as the opponents' slams on leaders of the restoration plan, whom they accuse of being driven by greed and a quest for $7 million in state bond money. Heal the Bay is singled out, with bumper stickers reading "Steal the Bay." Surfer Lyon calls Heal the Bay "hired hit men."
In 2002, the Coastal Commission used public funds to hire Heal the Bay, handing the organization a $287,000, 30-month contract to develop the restoration plan. Heal the Bay spent $175,000 on the environmental engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol and another $100,000 to pay Mark Abramson and another employee. Gold says Heal the Bay hasn't gotten any more taxpayer funds since 2004, insisting, "We don't have a vested interest, and we're not involved in the litigation in any way."
But, in fact, reputations are riding on what unfolds at Malibu Lagoon.
Shlien calls Abramson, previously paid with public funds by Heal the Bay to lead the effort, "an eco-terrorist." She adds, "He's like a mobster. He's making money off of the system. With a green sticker on it."
One day, while handing out fliers, Shlien got into a confrontation with Suzanne Goode, the senior resource ecologist for California State Parks. "We literally got into it," Shlien recalls. "My heart was beating so fast and I was so hurt. And people were laughing at us."
"I don't think it was an argument," Goode says. "There was emotion there. I told her she was saying something that wasn't true."
One memorable incident occurred before the Malibu City Council, when Lyon began berating council members with, "I surf there, you don't!"
"This is exactly the problem we've had all along with this," Mayor John Sibert replied to Lyon. "With people ... aggressive behavior. Please ... stop."
"There is a sand bar that is blocking the lagoon right now!" Lyon retorted.
"Please stop! No!" Sibert shot back at Lyon.
"Go look at it! It's there!" Lyon yelled.
"Andy, you're out of order," said Councilwoman Pamela Ulich, who opposes the restoration. Then she turned and asked someone, "Can you get the sheriff?"
Lyon was forcibly removed, and the council deadlocked 2-2 over taking a stand on restoring Malibu Lagoon.
As a group, surfers are divided on restoration. Many nonprofits, including the Malibu Surfing Association and Surfrider (which has partnered before with Heal the Bay), support the project, which, they say, will have little effect on the surf itself and a positive effect on water quality. But opponents say that adding more water to the lagoon, as the restoration envisions, is bad for the famed wave off Surfrider Beach, which has deteriorated over 30 years.
The environmental activists, locals and surfers who oppose remaking the lagoon have a temporary and somewhat precarious alliance. Their common ground is a shared distrust of the environmental establishment — and a worry that the unforeseen consequences of restoration will be a lot worse than anyone imagines.
The Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project — its formal name on the Coastal Commission application — is not, in fact, a "restoration." Nobody knows what the lagoon was like in its natural state. In truth, the project's architects hope to re-create the spirit of the lagoon.
"I think the goal of restoration ecology is to bring back natural functions and values," says Ambrose, the UCLA professor. "It's really more like a rehabilitation."
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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