For about a year environmental factions have been at war over what to do with Malibu Lagoon. While the surface of the lagoon doesn’t look so bad, the ecosystem beneath the water is in real trouble. Runoff from the nearby Malibu Creek watershed is filling the lagoon with excess nutrients; while a major restoration effort in the 1980’s has had a deleterious effect. The lagoon has had a long and unfortunate history. In the 30’s it was used as a dump site for the Department of Transportation, then in the 70’s two baseball fields and a massive parking lot were built. Then came the 1983 restoration, in which the ballparks were yanked, seawater channels were cut and series of walkways were erected to allow for nature walks through the area. Unfortunately, the restoration effort caused many unforeseen consequences. For a decade environmental groups chewed over plans for how to fix the lagoon, and finally last October, a $7 million dollar restoration plan was unanimously approved by the Coastal Commission. And that’s where the fireworks began. A group of residents and activists filed suit to stop the plan on procedural grounds, saying the coastal commission didn’t follow proper protocol. A judge granted them an injunction on those grounds last May. But according to reports the real criticism is that the project too extreme and the science behind it is flawed. Critics also say the plan doesn’t take into account the effect a massive rehab will have on area residents. Meanwhile proponents are left a little taken aback. In some cases they’ve worked side by side on environmental projects with the people who are now calling them “eco-terrorists.” So what’s really behind the fight for Malibu Lagoon? How big of an effect will the rehab effort make, and how much will local residents feel the burn? And finally, is there any chance of consensus.
Suzanne Goode, Senior Environmental Scientist, California State Parks
Marcia Hanscom, Director of the Wetlands Defense Fund