Showdown over Malibu Lagoon

October 12, 2010 § 14 Comments


From paperwork to project? We'll see... Click on image for link to Coastal Commission staff report on Malibu Lagoon.)


Tomorrow is the big showdown at the Coastal Commission over Malibu Lagoon’s restoration plan. There’s an odd volley of objections out there. My favorite in the absurdity category is that it’s like playing God by the Malibu Times’ Publisher Arnold York. What exactly were we playing at when we filled the original wetland? Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold details the rest of the objections and puts forward his response on Spouting Off. I encourage you to give it a read.

We’ll see how the commissioners respond to this onslaught of objections picking away at a restoration plan that focuses on removing human disturbances and impacts to a natural system and creating a structure for natural processes to maintain. I favor this approach because it is ultimately self-maintaining for habitat, and rebounds best when disturbances (like floods) occur. The lagoon’s current configuration does support some habitat, but anthropogenic issues that affect its health are well documented.

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§ 14 Responses to Showdown over Malibu Lagoon

  • Marshall Thompson says:

    Malibu lagoon has been doing fine for 30 years. The place is a living freak show of birds, animals, fish, plants. Yes it needs a nip and tuck but to kill the patient in order to “improve ” it seems unnecessarily heavy-handed plus very expensive in a time of great fiscal distress. Something like $12 million are involved so I say follow the money to see who is getting paid. For environmentalists to behave like Halliburton or Carl Rove is shocking. The “talking down to the ignorant peons” language directed at legitimate stakeholders has got to stop right now. you know, it’s not always Nimbyism that motivates local residents. Sometimes the big shot eco-organizations can get it wrong. Shades of “Animal Farm” where in this case, the protectors of the environment get corrupted by power and greed. Enough swagger, Mark Gold.

    • Shazzaam says:

      Yes, Mark Gold is getting very rich of this. I heard he’s getting another yacht, this one to park right off shore and watch the ‘destruction’ of a ‘pristine’ wetland. Enough from the ignorant peons.

      • Joe Linton says:

        Shazzaam – Best to stick to the issues with your comments – please refrain from personal criticisms.

      • whoa says:

        Hold on. I mean whoa Joe. It appears marshall is comparing these selfless environmentalists to Halliburton and Carl Rove. And, finishes with a direct dig at Mark Gold. I believe Shazzaam is just pointing that out for you. Maybe you should defend the many many members of Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Bay Keeper, Audubon, Sierra Club, etc who supported the restoration of Malibu lagoon and Marshall is insulting.

      • WTF?? Mark Gold owns no yacht. He is very far from rich. He works his ass off for very little money to make the ocean a cleaner place.

    • Jessica Hall says:

      Given the all-around testiness that has built up around this issue, I have to admit, Whoa, that my irony-meter wasn’t working particularly well either. I honestly wasn’t sure where Shazzam was coming from with this comment and was grateful Joe said something. While Joe directed his comment to Shazzam, clearly the need for mutual respect in these dialogues can be found on both sides.

      That said, arguments that consider the science and ecosystem function of the proposal could be engaging and interesting. I’m not hearing that in a substantive way from the opposition. And discussions of construction methodology can also be useful – especially around the balancing of cost and sustainability. For people so greatly concerned about the price tag, some mechanization can do wonders to decrease costs – labor on a public project will have Davis-Bacon wages, good for the workers but it adds up.

      Joe and I are in the awkward position of holding our own pov’s and trying to foster dialogue. While I should have spoken up as soon as the dialogue went Haliburton, stepping in to defend our colleagues – even those we agree with – fuels more oppositional thinking. We do try to maintain civility here. Where we falter, I trust in our readers to discern between empty name-calling and legitimate conversation.

  • ObserverELACo says:

    On my first visit ever visit to Malibu Lagoon two weeks ago I saw a vibrant, thriving ecosystem.

    There were hundreds of birds representing numerous species — cormorants, egrets, coots, mallards, geese, a heron. (And those are only the ones I can identify. There were more.) I saw numberless fish in the water, insects in the air, reptiles on the ground, and a rabbit nibbling away amid the all the plant life of the islands.

    It doesn’t take a genius to see that Malibu Lagoon, in its current state, does more than simply “support some habitat.” But I guess it takes a legion of experts — and $7 million — to see past all the life and decide that bulldozer is appropriate species to introduce there.

    • Shazzaam says:

      Come back next week and everyone of those fish will be dead b/c of the current configuration of the channels. The hundreds of birds you saw were in the main channel and on the beach – they won’t be disturbed. Insect and and birds fly, and reptile and rabbits scurry – they should all be just fine. And, after we’ll have a much more diverse and sustainable community.

  • naturalist.charlie says:

    Although I don’t know enough about this project to have an opinion on it either way, I find it odd that people are so horribly offended that some round-up might be applied to the lagoon during a restoration project, but aren’t speaking out about the ridiculous amounts of herbicides and chemical fertilizers being dumped into the watershed via landscaping in its upper reaches. I certainly understand the concern, but this is the equivalent of screaming at someone for tossing an apple rind into the ocean while nearby a garbage barge is dumping tons of radioactive toxic waste into the sea. It’s important to have a sense of scale and proportion – if you are worried about chemical contamination in Malibu Creek you should be looking towards the golf courses upstream and asking people not to flush birth control pills long before you are worried about 1 gallon of round-up near the lagoon.

    Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

  • Marshall Thompson says:

    Naturalist Charlie, you will be glad to learn that because of our pressure, they have deleted the application of Round Up or any other herbicides from the Malibu Lagoon project. While your comments about other sources of contamination including prescription medications are well taken, we were not talking about “1 gallon of Round Up.” Far, far more gallons of this chemical were to be applied. Thank you for your support for a less-destructive improvement of Malibu Lagoon.

  • I’m glad that this was resolved to your liking and hopefully it works out. I think it is possible to remove most invasive plants without herbicide but sometimes very difficult and expensive. Then again, if they were just spraying it on dandelions and stuff, yeah, it was probably a poor choice. Either way we have a long way to go with that watershed. There are a lot of noxious weeds AND toxic chemicals causing problems higher in the watershed at this point… and if we don’t deal with them the lagoon will be a lot less valuable, regardless of what they do with it now.

  • Marshall Thompson says:

    Organizations can wander off the path over time. Really great people with fabulous resumes can blow it now and again. This is one of those times. Yesterday was a convention of power brokers, deal makers and high level “very important people” and I think the Malibu Lagoon will suffer because of it. We who are opposed to the mechanized methodology in this plan have just begun to fight. Ultimately we all share the same objective: to clean up Malibu Lagoon for the sake of the public and the myriad birds, plants and animals that live there.

  • Malibu Stew says:

    On my first visit to Malibu Lagoon, years ago, I was shocked at the smell, the pollution, the lack of fish, and the small numbers of birds compared to the Ballona wetlands (pre-Playa Vista’s distruction). Restoration is needed and if you think 7-10 million is alot of money for the studies & the project, you are wrong. This is an accurate cost for thousands of hours of labor, equipment, materials, scientific studies, etc.

    How can the lagoon be reshaped to allow more oxygen & flow without using heavy equipment? Are you willing to go out in the Lagoon with a shovel? Would an army of 1000’s of people with hand shovels have a smaller impact?

    We have to look at the shared desire to have a clean lagoon, and the big picture of what will have the least short-term impact vs. the best long-term results FOR THE ECOSYSTEM.

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