Southern California environment news and trends

Answers about the Malibu Lagoon direct from State Parks, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission

Malibu Lagoon State Beach is the site of a tug-of-war among environmentalists with different priorities for wetlands protection.

Malibu firefighter Stephenie Glas co-founded "The Real Malibu 411" as a web presence to promote what she saw as the true story about the restoration of Malibu Lagoon. Her site links to agency plans, court decisions, hearing transcripts, and other technical information directly; she backed restoration of the lagoon. A few days before she died from what was apparently a self-inflicted gunshot, she told me that for people who didn't support the project, or wanted to find out more, she wanted to be a resource. Her friend Cece Stein, a Malibu-based publicist, co-founded the site. Now she's doing informational videos about the restoration as it's happening. 

This week Stein interviewed Suzanne Goode from California State Parks & Mark Abramson from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.  


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

Darrell Rae/Facebook

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


Feuding neighbors, and even threats of violence, in Malibu Lagoon environmentalists' battle

Marcia Hanscom/Wetlands Defense Fund

A view of Malibu Lagoon in July 2011.

As I’ve been talking to adversaries about Malibu Lagoon in the last week, what stands out is how well they know each other. Or, at least, how well they think they do.

“That’s a fundamental difference in how people are looking at that site,” Rich Ambrose of UCLA told me. “People who understand that there are a lot of problems and the site is impaired, but it’s on the water side, versus the people who enjoy going out to the site and they can see plants living on the ground and they can see the birds that are using it and so they don’t, I think, understand what the problems with the site are.”

Environmentalism isn’t a single viewpoint. The environmental priorities of the proponents of the Malibu Lagoon restoration are on display and have been, pretty much by law, for more than a decade. They say the project aims to decrease urban runoff, increase circulation, restore habitat, and decrease nutrients in the water.


Malibu Lagoon supporters anticipate beginning of restoration work

Courtesy The Real Malibu 411/Steve Woods

A view of the Malibu Lagoon after a 1938 flood.

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.


Song of the Week: 'My Beach,' by Surf Punks, for Malibu Lagoon restoration

Surf Punks, "My Beach."

Surf Punks

Surf Punks. Let's not overthink this one.

The goings-on in Malibu this week have offered a unique opportunity to play some songs I heard when I was a kid.

Malibu is presently, of course, the site of a showdown over a long-planned restoration in the western lagoon part of the state park. Low dissolved oxygen and seasonally high bacteria levels mean that the waters aren't supporting a healthy ecosystem. State and local agencies have won funding and permits to begin reshaping the lagoon. But for all of the surfers, environmentalists, scientists and beach lovers on the side of getting this restoration done, Malibu locals, including some celebrities and surfers, are among the opponents to it, joined by Westside naturalists and conservationists. This fight has a distinctly local and even "locals only" feel. Just like the band the Surf Punks did, in the early eighties.