Lagoon Opposition Ranks Keep Growing
• Groups Take New Legal Action to Try to Stop State Bulldozers
State Parks' Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Plan is scheduled to get underway on June 1, but opponents of the controversial plan to drain, dredge, bulldoze and reconstruct the western channels of the Malibu Lagoon continue to fight the project and are gaining eleventh-hour allies.
The Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All and the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network—CLEAN—have filed papers in the California Court of Appeals seeking an emergency order to prevent demolition work from beginning.
The same troika of environmental organizations won a postponement from the trial court last May, postponing the start date for the project by a full year, arguing that the project, which proposes bulldozing the channels installed by State Parks during the 1983 restoration project and excavating approximately 88,700 cubic feet of existing material, would be harmful to endangered or threatened birds, fish and other sensitive species residing in the lagoon.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs James Birkelund and Rose Zoia have also argued that "the destruction of habitat and the wooden bridges path would cause irreparable harm," a press release issued by the Wetlands Defense Fund states.
"Since the postponement last year, a San Francisco judge ruled on the side of the agencies planning to bulldoze the lagoon, and the environmental groups filed an appeal on February 14th of this year," the press release states. "The merits of this case have not yet been scheduled for hearing.
"This petition requests a writ of supersedeas for a stay of construction activities on the environmentally sensitive Malibu Lagoon in Southern California until this court has a chance to act on the merits of this case," the writ states. The issue this petition asks the Court to decide is whether any substantial questions are raised on appeal to justify a stay pursuant to the Court's broad discretion under Code of Civil Procedure ("CCP") section 923. A writ is necessary at this time. Unless the dredging and engineering proposal to remake Malibu Lagoon is stayed, Petitioners would lose the benefits of litigation and the very resources sought to be protected would be destroyed."
New voices have recently joined the growing groundswell of opposition to the project in the community.
Last month, the City of Malibu, on a 5-0 vote, reversed its original support of the proposal. The city will be filing an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief in the California Court of Appeals.
Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal, at last week's state of the city address, expressed disappointment over the response from California Governor Jerry Brown and California State Parks to the city's opposition to the lagoon construction project act (CEQA.) That brief will be filed in the next couple of weeks.
Former state Senator Tom Hayden also voiced concerns over the project, requesting state officials to reconsider the project. Last month, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party voted to officially oppose the project.
Activists have been busy collecting signatures on petitions opposing the lagoon project. An online petition has received more than 8100 signatures.
Volunteers from the Surfers Coalition who attended the Nike Lower Surf contest at Lower Trestles in San Clemente over the weekend reportedly garnered an additional 365 signatures.
"Malibu citizens are re- minding the surrounding communities that this is happening up and down the coast and can happen in your home town," said activist Monique Kehoe. "If this is not stopped now, it will create a dewatering into the Bay of high bacteria levels that will be unsafe for surfers, swimmers and all beach goers in the State of California."
According to Kehoe, petition signers at the event included pro surfers Kolohe Andino, John John Florence, Nat Young, Luke Davis, Julian Wilson, Keanu Asing, Granger Larsen, Laura Enever, Evan Geiselman, Kai Barger, Ian Crane, Alex & Koa Smith, Dylan Goodale, Shaw Kobayashi, Ricky Schaffer, Matt King, Cody Ulrich, Patrick Tanner and Dane Gudauskas and event champion Brazillian Gabriel Medina. According to Kehoe, Medina will "spread the word at the upcoming ASP Pro Tour event May 9-20 in Rio de janeiro, Brazil."
The Surfers Coalition will be sponsoring a "fundraiser and awareness event" at Duke's Malibu Restaurant, 21150 PCH, on May 17 at 6 p.m.
The evening will include a screening of Malibu surfer and project opponent Allen Sarlo's award winning "Best Documentary" "Work to Surf," a silent auction, a taco plate buffet and bake sale, and a screening of a short film made to commemorate the blessing of the lagoon by Tibetan Buddhist teacher H.E. Jamyang Dagmola Sakya that was presented and viewed at the April 9 Malibu City Council meeting by former Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich.
"In addition, after the movie premiere we will have a DJ, music, book and CD signings, Karoke and a special tribute to Malibu Surfrider Beach and Lagoon with special celebrity guest appearances," Kehoe said.
More information on the event is available from the Surfers Coalition at 310-428-3026.