Critics Continue to Raise Questions about Lagoon Construction
• State Parks Spokesperson Reaffirms That Project Is Going According to Plan Despite Claims Made by Opponents
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Residents continue to raise questions concerning State Parks’ Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project. Recently aired issues include concerns regarding rain-related erosion and water quality in the main channel. A series of emails from the time period immediately before the construction portion of the project acquired by a public information request is also generating controversy.
“I have submitted a CD with emails I obtained from [the] State Parks Department regarding the Malibu Lagoon,” activist John Davis told the Malibu City Council last week.
“These are important,” Davis said. “I would like to share some quotes from the emails. One represents a disingenuous outreach to council[-member Skylar] Peak.”
Davis read a portion of an email from State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap to former State Parks Director Ruth Coleman and former Heal the Bay President Mark Gold that states: “When I spoke to [State Parks Senior Environmental Scientist] Suzanne [Goode] earlier today about this, we both agreed that Skylar would probably ask to be accompanied by other opponents and thus make the meeting unlikely.
“Our objective is to appear open, but knowing that he will not want to meet on our terms. In the end, we can say we reached out to him.”
“I cannot believe what I am reading,” Davis told the council. “Mark Gold responds, ‘And again, I understand your staff's concern and his is really more about diplomacy than outcome.”
Davis continued to read from the email. “‘[It’s a] new council and you are reaching out to a guy who will be gone for two weeks to Indonesia from Thursday on. The symbolism would be influential,’” he read.
“They are discussing a council person and I find this very disturbing myself,” Davis said. Suzanne Goode and Craig Sap have concealed recent planning meetings from the staff and from this council.”
Davis also read quotes from emails regarding a meeting that took place in May regarding proposed plans to manage a manmade breach at the Malibu Lagoon.
“At least two private businesses have participated with State Parks and the County of Los Angeles as it relates to discussions of prior legal and proposed new breaches of the lagoon,” Davis said.
“The private businesses are Surfrider and Malibu Surfing Association. The Surfrider representatives are identified as C. Nelson and Nancy Hastings. The meetings were not announced publicly. No other businesses, [and] other businesses, individuals or agencies were not invited to participate and records were kept by an individual named Scott Valor.
“The May 10 meeting discusses reopening the lagoon and I will read some quotes for you. “Parks does not have a permit to breach. Lifeguards have breached it as well as private citizens all illegally in the past.
Davis closed with the following quote: “Surfrider staff is convinced that if local surfers knew there was a confirmed west breach management that they’d back off lagoon opposition. Privately have said that they don’t care about lagoon but saw them as related.’”
One resident told the Malibu Surfside News following the meeting that the emails underscore what she indicated she perceives as a major disconnect between the State Parks and the organizations involved in the project and the City of Malibu and the public.
“It’s clear that they treat us like the enemy, and have done that from the beginning, instead of like neighbors and partners in this process. It’s extremely discouraging.”
Craig Sap, who was at the meeting to report the lagoon project, responded: “You can take an email and you can paraphrase, and you can take portions of it and in that particular case it is fully explainable. In that particular case, it was prior to the start of the Malibu Lagoon project and Skylar was the one who reached out to us, so it’s very explainable, and I can in detail, I can talk to you about it, it’s not what it appears, not even close, and all the words, just so you know, all the words I wrote on there are correct, but it’s a longer, drawn-out, off-line conversation with regards to that email, that one in particular.”
Sap clarified that “the breach [is] separate from the lagoon project, completely separate, [the meeting was the] start of looking at that as a managed breach, working with partners.”
Sap indicated that construction at the site has been hampered by recent rain but that the project is moving forward without serious problems. He stated that the native plants grow at a slower rate than invasive non-natives, and that the landscaping crew is currently hand-weeding the recent plantings.
“The project is held up just a bit because of the recent rains, but I’m told that no runoff left the site and entered the lagoon, or the surf zone,” Sap said.
He indicated that mud on the beach access route was the only impact from the rains.
Sap concluded that he was available to discuss the project with council members and the public. “If anyone calls me I will pick up the phone,” he said.
Sap was not available for comment on Tuesday, before the Malibu Surfside News went to press.
Representatives from the Regional Water Quality and Control Board were reportedly at the site earlier this week.
The News received a report on Tuesday evening that the RWQCB allegedly issued citations for “housekeeping and erosion” concerns following the inspection.