Southern California environment news and trends

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. 

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Who's working to block the wetlands restoration project at Malibu Lagoon State Park?

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

It's been a crazy day over at Malibu Lagoon. Read up here on what happened today. No bulldozers were ever expected as restoration work began, despite the claims of opponents. What work was expected - basic setup, fencing, framing, surveying and plotting - has been delayed until Monday. 

What I'm finding here in the north-central part of LA is that everything going on in the Malibu Lagoon restoration project is just confusing to the casual observer. Do the surfers oppose or support the project? (Both.) Do environmentalists back the project, or want to block it? (Both.) 

What's indisputable is the fact that the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, working with California State Parks, has long planned a project where they'll drain the western part of the Malibu Lagoon and reshape it, then return what plants and animals they can to the area, in the effort to put a version of restoration on track. 

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Malibu Lagoon restoration work delayed, but not in question, says California State Parks

faria!/Flickr

Low dissolved oxygen levels put stress on marine life in Malibu Lagoon, state officials say. Some conservationists counter that the ecosystem is functioning.

Work on a controversial restoration plan in Malibu Lagoon will not start today as scheduled. Meanwhile protesters gathered along the Pacific Coast Highway in the lagoon's parking lot to raise their doubts about the restoration.

State and regional agencies have long asserted that the Malibu Lagoon is sick with too much bacteria and not enough dissolved oxygen in its waters to support a healthy wetlands ecosystem. They have planned to take the water out of the western part of Malibu Lagoon in order to reshape it. The initial stages of the project call for surveying, putting a fence around the work area, and monitoring or removing sensitive wildlife at the site with the intent of returning them to the lagoon later. A regional manager for California State Parks, Craig Sap, says restoration work will now start on Monday. Sap says Malibu Councilman Skylar Peak asked for the delay so that increased activity at the lagoon doesn’t interfere with an autism charity event that’s been taking place at Surfrider beach for a dozen years. "He said, you know, it would be goodwill for the community," Sap says. 

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Dueling viewpoints on Malibu Lagoon reflected in dueling events for environmental groups

Mercer 21185

cydog66/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

A view of the Malibu Lagoon.

It could be coincidence. But tonight on the West Side, two environmental groups dueling over Malibu Lagoon are having dueling parties, too.

Heal the Bay has been backing restoration at Malibu Lagoon for years, and the group’s (long-planned) Bring Back the Beach gala honors actors Amy Smart, Julia Roberts & Danny Moder, and Hilton Hotels’ Matthew Hart. Up the PCH, at Duke’s, a group called the Surfers Coalition holds its own party, a ”fundraiser and awareness event” that includes tacos, a silent auction, celebrity guests and a documentary about surfing.

That's happening as a protracted debate over Malibu Lagoon picks up steam. Who knew something that's being called a restoration project would split Malibu's community of environmentalists (not to mention surfers) down the middle? 

Backers of a major restoration project say the Malibu lagoon estuary is unhealthy and needs to be reshaped so that it functions as it should. They point to high nutrient levels and nuisance algae blooms. State authorities have allocated $7 million to drain, grade and reshape the lagoon. The Coastal Commission approved the plan more than 18 months ago. The plan has withstood most scientific and all legal scrutiny, and while restoration was delayed last summer, a district court judge ruled it could continue this year.

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