Southern California environment news and trends

Coastal commission stands behind Malibu Lagoon restoration; opponents vow to continue fight

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Save Malibu Lagoon posted this picture; Marcia Hanscom wrote that it is "not restoration." So far, state agencies disagree.

Opponents to the Santa Monica Bay Restoration-led Malibu Lagoon restoration project have been circulating allegations that the work is illegal. The letter hand-delivered to the California Coastal Commission complains about incomplete and unapproved public access and dewatering plans and other problems that, they allege, would force the SMBRC to stop the project temporarily for a public hearing, or even permanently. Here's the letter. Letter from WDF and CLEAN alleging illegal activity at Malibu Lagoon

CLEAN and the Wetlands Defense Fund say in their letter that the coastal commission "takes great pains" in approving projects and requiring them to comply with state and federal laws. The coastal commission's investigator Patrick Veesart writes, in response that "every effort is being made by the applicant" to comply with the law. California Coastal Commision response to allegations about Malibu Lagoon

Opponents to the project have not yet exhausted their legal objections, nor their procedural ones. They have asked the California Coastal Commission to rescind the permit the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission has been granted to complete the work. According to Jack Ainsworth, the acting deputy director of the coastal commission, that could only happen if commission staff can establish that there has been "intentional inclusion or exclusion of information that would have changed the commission’s decision in some way." Ainsworth told me, "That's a high bar to reach."

There's also the matter of the "dewatering plan," the way in which state officials and their contractors will remove water from the lagoon (and the wildlife in it) so that the restoration project can continue. Much is made in the Malibu press about this plan; it was delivered in Malibu today, and the coastal commission has it. Representatives of the coastal commission have said the public will have time to review the plan.

It's clear, at this point, that opponents to the project perceive what's happening at the lagoon as an irredeemable destruction. It's equally clear that the SMBRC and the coastal commission don't agree. It's not clear whether there's any way to bridge this gap.

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