Council Airing of Lagoon Issues Expected to Draw a Crowd
• State Reconstruction Plan Has Led to Contentious Debate over Openness of Process and Policy
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The Malibu City Council will hear from both sides in the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project debate on April 11. The airing is described as a formality, since the project, which is being challenged with legal action by opponents, already has the required permits to proceed.
The staff report for the meeting provides a summary of the issue and some insight into the various issues.
"At the February 28 city council meeting, the council agreed to place the state D[epartment of] P[arks] and R[ecreation] Lagoon Restoration project on the April 11 agenda in order to obtain public input on the project," the staff report states. "The project has already been approved by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) on October 29, 2010. The concerns previously raised by members of the public include: questions about the lack of public participation, the permitting process, construction timing, water quality during and post-construction, and wetland and wildlife impacts."
The project's proponents point to a long list of Malibu Creek Watershed Council meetings over the past ten years as proof that public participation was solicited.
Project critics dismiss the list, indicating that only the first phase of the project, which included moving the parking lot and replacing asphalt and concrete with permeable materials, was addressed at public meetings and that the second phase, which involves draining, dredging and reconfiguring the western portion of the lagoon, and includes 88,700 cubic yards of grading, was developed without public input, only coming to the attention of the public when the item was scheduled to be heard by the Coastal Commission in October.
Critics, including the public access advocacy group Access for All, are expressing concern over plans to remove the beach access that currently crosses the lagoon on a series of three bridges, leaving the public with one, rather than two, easements to the beach.
Opponents say they are also concerned about the potential impact of the project on the surfbreak at Surfrider Beach and on the plant and animal population.
The plans proponents have stated that the project will not impact the surfbreak and that an environmental resources specialist "with experience conducting bird and noise surveys," will monitor bird behavior and construction noise levels "every day at the beginning of the project and during all periods of significant construction activities.
According to the staff report, the City of Malibu provided comments to the CCC regarding potential water quality degradation that may be caused by the discharge plan. "The discharge point is directly into the sand at Surfrider Beach. Disturbance of the sand could resuspend bacteria, which will become part of the water samples collected for regular fecal indicator bacteria monitoring," a letter from the city stated. The city letter "stresses that Malibu should not become liable in any way for elevated bacteria levels at Surfrider Beach during or after construction."
Opponents say disturbance of sand could also change the way the surf breaks, impacting wave quality as well as water quality, and that no studies were conducted to assess the potential long-term impact the project, which will deepen the western lagoon to accommodate a greater volume of water, will have on the surf.
According to the staff report, the council has the option of taking a position on the project to support, oppose or remain neutral); direct staff to prepare a letter to that effect; direct staff to coordinate with California Department of Parks and Recreation on project scheduling and reciprocity of any studies conducted within the project area; and/or direct staff to follow up with State DPR and Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) to expand the water quality monitoring requirements of the project.