Enviro groups say Legacy Park project flawed

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Judge puts water quality rules on hold.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Although Malibu received some praise for its effort to clean the city’s watershed, the various environmental groups that submitted comments on the draft environmental impact report for the Legacy Park Project called the document vague on some issues and said the project was not good enough to tackle the full problem of water quality.

Some of the major concerns about the project were that it does not deal with wastewater and only addresses storm water pollution, it does not call for a large wetland habitat and that too much of the treated storm water will go into the Malibu watershed.

“The Legacy Park Project has potential to be among the most important environmental improvement projects to take place in the city of Malibu to date,” wrote Heal the Bay officials. “If designed and implemented correctly, the project will have major positive implications for water quality and coastal habitats. However … despite significant improvements, there are still major shortcomings with the current project as proposed.”

Heal the Bay and other groups, including the Santa Monica Baykeeper, the Surfrider Foundation and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, say the project should have included a plan to curb both wastewater and storm water pollution. Originally, that was the city’s plan. But last year, Malibu officials decided, due to the complexity of the matter, this portion of the project would only deal with storm water treatment, and wastewater would be handled in a second phase of the watershed cleaning plan beginning next year. There is some mention in the EIR about wastewater treatment, including the plan to create a treatment plant, but it does not go in-depth.

Heal the Bay officials wrote, “The separation of these components makes the review of the merits of the storm water proposal extremely difficult, as many assumptions need to be made about the future wastewater plans.”

The Legacy Park Project includes the creation of a detention pond to capture the storm water. This water would be sent to the nearby storm water treatment plant. Some of the treated water would be reused for irrigation and groundwater recharge, but some of it would be discharged into the Malibu watershed.

Heal the Bay suggested the pond needs to be larger to capture more storm water and a storage system is needed to hold the treated storm water because the city would be “missing a large opportunity” by not doing that.

“This is a colossal waste of a precious resource at a time of growing water scarcity throughout California,” wrote Heal the Bay about discharging treated runoff into the Malibu watershed.

No wetlands a missed opportunity

Several groups also mentioned a disappointment that the park would not be turned into a wetland. The plan for the park is to create a small riparian/wetland habitat (1.5 acres), but also 2.2 acres of California native woodlands, 3.6 acres of coastal bluffs and 7.7 acres of coastal prairies. Dr. Richard Ambrose, the biologist consultant for the project has said creating a large wetland would be too costly. But others say not creating one would be a missed opportunity.

“More than 12 acres have the potential to be restored as wetland habitat on [Legacy Park], representing one of the few remaining opportunities available to California coastal communities to restore wetland habitat,” wrote Eduardo Emanuelli of the Surfrider Foundation’s Malibu/West Los Angeles chapter.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission added, “Habitats proposed in the DEIR are not native to the local area … we understand the value of habitats such as … coastal prairie, but the creation of habitats that were not historically present in the immediate area is inconsistent with the goals of other local restoration efforts.”

City Manager Jim Thorsen said he expects city officials and consultants to have responses prepared for comments by early September. The responses will be included in the final EIR. The city’s Environmental Review Board, which consists of scientists and other experts, was expected to meet on the project Wednesday morning. The DEIR and the project are expected to go before the Planning Commission on Sept. 23, with the City Council making the final decision in November.