Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Malibu Lagoon supporters anticipate beginning of restoration work

A view of the Malibu Lagoon after a 1938 flood.
A view of the Malibu Lagoon after a 1938 flood. Courtesy The Real Malibu 411/Steve Woods

Earlier we looked at who the opponents to the Malibu Lagoon restoration project are, and what their general grievances are. Now let’s meet the project’s backers.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission is the lead agency running lagoon restoration. It’s an independent state agency, funded in part by a nonprofit foundation. Members of the commission are appointed from local government and environmental groups. 

The lagoon sits on land managed by the California State Parks system. One interesting thing is that the state parks website seems to show awareness of the fact that there is opposition: it lists the mainstream environmental groups and people that back it.

Commission staffers, the people who work there, are scientists and, in the most neutral sense of the word, bureaucrats. What I mean by that word is that they believe in the process. And over a period of several years, they say, they’ve gone through a lengthy one. Along the way, the public has participated, and regulators and scientists have cast scrutiny on the plans.

Opponents have attacked some of these people, including the SMBRC’s Mark Abramson, as motivated by money. No evidence of that has been made public. And what little public information about salaries exists on the Internet doesn’t reveal hidden riches at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

While he was still with Heal the Bay, Mark Gold wrote about an earlier round of objections to the Malibu Lagoon restoration. He defended Mark Abramson, who’s leading the restoration for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and whose motives have been attacked more tha once. 

For Mark, the Malibu Creek watershed and Malibu Lagoon must be restored, nurtured and protected. Trust me, he will not stop until the lagoon returns to normal function, Rindge Dam is removed and the southern steelhead trout swims to Cold Creek and Malibu Creek State Park. To somehow think that State Parks, the Coastal Conservancy, S.M. Bay Restoration Commission and Heal the Bay would lead a supposedly environmentally devastating project is nonsensical. What would be the motivation? To think Abramson would do such a thing is just downright offensive.

A number of Malibu stalwarts are also in favor of the project, and that includes plenty of surfers. Surfrider founder Glenn Henning has made videos of support, some contrasting efforts to stop bulldozers in 1990 with the bulldozers the restoration hopes to bring in now. A surfer named Ken Seino says he sees this project as a continuation of work done to improve water quality in the area, an issue he considers one of life and death. Seino also recently posted a letter to The Real Malibu 411 indicating that Chumash elders are backing the project as it continues. 

The Real Malibu 411, a news site begun as an alternative to Malibu Patch, has also posted reports from state and federal agencies, and consultants, backing the plans as they’re broadly conceived.  

A legal challenge against lagoon restoration continues, brought by the Wetlands Defense Center, Marcia Hanscom and others. But no court has agreed with those plaintiffs that the risks from letting the work go forward are so deep and vast that it cannot proceed. Hanscom and her legal advocates say they’re working to figure out what, if any, next steps exist.

More to come.

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