Finalized Dewatering Plan Released as Next Stage of Lagoon Project Proceeds
• State Parks Spokesperson Says Work Continues to Be on Schedule
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The long-awaited plan for the Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project has been released. The City of Malibu has posted the document on the city website: www.malibucity.org
State Parks Senior Biologist Suzanne Goode told the Malibu Surfside News that dewatering in the western portion of the lagoon is expected to begin next week. "We have to test it first," Goode said. "We feel we are on schedule. The project is going very well. The dike is in place.
Goode explained that the earthen dike will provide access for visitors. I think it will be more pleasant," Goode said. The current path is not ADA accessible, because of its surface, she explained, adding that the final access route will conform to all ADA specifications. "It will be completely ADA accessible," Goode said.
"They've been removing fill. We've seen telephone poles, concrete, asphalt, we are starting to see native soils underneath. Our biologists were shocked that [the mud] was devoid of invertebrates. There were no clams, no tubeworms."
Goode confirmed that animal relocation is ongoing. "We have biologists stationed around the brush piles. They have removed lizards and some rodents. The contractors are removing the brush slowly, nudging it first. They are trapping around the piles. It seems like there are sometimes more biologists in the field than contractors."
Goode said that biologists have recovered and relocated six goby fish. Three of the fish were identified as arrow gobies, a non-threatened species, she said. One was positively ID'ed as the endangered tidewater goby. The other two were in their larval form and the biologists were reportedly unable to determine if they were arrow gobies or tidewater gobies, according to Goode.
Goode said the fish were placed in the main channel.
"They don't dive into the mud when they are scared," Goode said, refuting statements made by Georginne Bradley, the executive director of the non-profit Sea Save organization. "That's simply false," Goode said.
Goode also refuted project opponents' concerns that the plan will transform the estuary, which is closed in summer and open in the winter, into a salt marsh. "It does not change that. We respect that," she said.
Some plant material-including tulles, reeds and salt grass, according to Goode-has been salvaged. The project biologists have obtained permission to take plant cuttings in Mugu and Ballona wetlands to replant the disturbed area.
According to Goode, the only archeological find was a tool flake. She stated that more recent objects include a pellet gun, a purse containing a still-legible passport, and an assortment of children's toys.
One thing they haven't found and plan not to introduce is the invasive and destructive New Zealand mud snail. "All of the equipment is being steam cleaned," Goode said.
Although the project appears to be moving forward rapidly, project opponents have not given up the fight. "There is something you can do now," water quality activist Ted Vaill told the Malibu City Council on Monday. Vaill suggested that the city use the $25,000 earmarked for a study on the project that never took place to establish a reward fund for information on the cause of the recent lagoon berm breach that many observers claim was mechanical in nature. "It clearly was man made," Vaill said. "This reward could flush out a person. It's your turn to act."
Lagoon opponent Andy Lyon screened a video chronicling the lagoon demolition process set to the Counting Crows cover of the Joni Mitchell song "Big Yellow Taxi." Members of the audience sang along with the refrain: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
"I want to first say thank you to Lou [La Monte] and Laura [Rosenthal] for coming down to the Coastal Commission meeting," Marcia Hanscom, whose Wetlands Defense Fund is one of three organizations pursuing legal action in an effort to stop the State Parks project "You promised and did. I am very disappointed that the others promised and didn't."
Hanscom asked the council to support her request to the Coastal Commission for a revocation of the project's permit. "There are still so many things wrong, but the heart of the lagoon is still there. They have not dug down into the ancient soils that are not fill. That are not baseball diamonds. You could stop it. There are many problems. You could help. You could ask for revocation or send a letter of support."
The lagoon issue was not on the agenda and the council could not take action. However, Councilmember Lou La Monte stated that he planned to meet with project stakeholders meeting coming up next week, "to see if there are things we can do to mitigate," he said. "Replace umbrellas with trees.".
"I am here this evening to recommend a workshop on the importance of natural bacteria and the importance of kelp," activist Wendi Werner told the council.
Werner, whose concern over the dewatering portion of the Malibu Lagoon plan has spread to encompass larger water quality issues told the council that Malibu is a microcosm of what is going on up and down state. "Current monitoring does not differentiate between natural bacteria and human," Werner said.
"[Regional Water Quality and Control board] staff didn't want to listen to people and [hear how] having a natural bacteria exclusion effects us. Water quality problems with natural bacteria are not taken into consideration. They are imposing same restrictions on us as on urban areas. Help me to create a workshop to educate the community. Let the people know what these exclusions mean for us. It is a big deal," she said.