Malibu Lagoon project faces delay after court ruling

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The controversial project to recontour the Malibu Lagoon looks to be on hold, after the San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith indicated support Friday for a motion for a preliminary injunction, or stay, to halt construction. The project was slated to begin June 1. Members of the Wetlands Defense Fund (WDF), which opposes the project, had filed a preliminary injunction to delay the start of the project.

WDF attorney James Birkelund stated, “In recognition of Malibu Lagoon’s unique wildlife and irreplaceable public trails, the San Francisco Superior Court indicated this afternoon that a dredging plan to remake the lagoon will be subject to a stay order pending further review.”

Birkelund continued, “The stay should remain in effect until the Court makes a final decision on the legality of the project later this year. The bulldozing proposal presents clear violations of Coastal Act and California Environmental Quality Act mandates to protect fragile wildlife and historic public trails.”

The project, approved by the California Coastal Commission, is backed by groups like Heal the Bay, which maintain that the lagoon’s waterways are lacking oxygen, backed up from years of pollution.

Opponents assert that the lagoon has the ability to repair itself in time, and that the State Parks-led restoration, slated to begin in June, is invasive and could kill native wetlands and wildlife.

The City of Malibu has no power to stop the project, as it takes place on California State Parks-owned land. At its April 11 regular meeting, the Malibu City Council decided to remain neutral on the project after debating a motion to write an official letter to Governor Jerry Brown indicating either the city’s support or opposition to the plan.