No Progress Yet on City's $25,000 Study to Evaluate the Lagoon Project
BY BILL KOENEKER
There is still no agreement on who should review the Malibu Lagoon documentation pertaining to the restoration project, according to Wetlands Defense Fund science director Roy Van de Hoeck, who told the Malibu City Council last week his organization was not ready to endorse the USGS team until they could see a full list of scientists that would be in the group.
He said there is a "tainting" of the process because of Councilmember John Sibert's involvement. Sibert is running for re-election.
"These accusations are completely false. This really upsets me. It is not true," said Sibert, who had originally been accused of devising the study as a way to divert the issue until after the election on April 10.
"The USGS was going to do it. Everybody seemed to agree to this. We were close. Now you are pulling the plug."
Sibert said the accusations had to do with alleged connections between Sibert, who once lived in Alaska and other scientists, who live there now.
"It is tainted because I lived in Alaska? That was seven years ago. I did not work for an oil company there. I worked for Arco in the same office as Ted Vaill. I got patents for solar energy and batteries. I have not talked to anyone in Alaska. This is just off the wall. Let's hope we can get someone to qualify," he said.
Vaill had earlier criticized the council for not being able to produce a finished product. "The study should be completed by now. Have some spine. Take a position," he said.
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.
Earlier State Parks officials had accused Hanscom and others of dropping the ball and not providing names and recommendations.
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.
Sibert 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 after candidate Andy Lyon made it a campaign issue. It was given a 30-day timeline.
Hanscom this week said the city council could pursue legal remedies or rescind the letters sent to the California Coastal Commission in support of the restoration.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said the third letter expressing some of the city's concerns had been sent.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who has been most strident in her opposition, said, after reading from a lengthy prepared statement, the city was willing to file an amicus brief during the fight against the LNG port and should do the same for the lagoon issue.
"Any statement that there is nothing the city can do to stop the project is simply not true. In addition to funding a study which may or may not even be completed before June, the Malibu City Council can: Allocate $50,000 towards legal fees to slow down the project, just like we did in our fight against the LNG.
"Direct our attorney to file an amicus brief just as we have done in many other cases.
"Take a formal position on the project and argue our case before Governor Jerry Brown. Collaborate with the state and all stakeholders to try to come to a mutually agreeable solution, " she 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."