Good News for Malibu Sector State Parks

Stacie Smith describes work done to remove the five-foot check dam over Arroyo Sequit Creek.

If all goes according to plan, California State Parks will hit back-to-back home runs at the end of 2015, bracing the historic Malibu Pier and restoring habitat for native Southern California steelhead trout.

State Parks, which has the tricky job of both catering to human visitors and protecting California wildlife, recently announced two projects slated for completion this fall that should please state parks visitors from foot to fin. 

On Monday evening, State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap came to the Malibu City Council meeting to announce the upcoming commencement of a project replacing up to 59 damaged or missing pilings, once again stabilizing the 80-year-old pier. The pier was heavily damaged during wave action from Hurricane Marie at the end of last summer. However, piling replacement work will not begin immediately.

This announcement came just three days after California State Parks called together a meeting of elected officials and representatives from various nonprofit, state and federal agencies to announce the successful near-completion of the Arroyo Sequit Steelhead Restoration Project at Leo Carrillo State Park. This project will restore habitat for endangered steelhead trout.

Making the pier safe again

Anyone who’s visited the pier since August 2014 will have seen the fenced off area where the structure is not considered sound.

According to Sap, that could no longer be an issue in as little as 55 days. “We’re hoping to start the initial work within 45 to 60 days,” Sap told council during its Monday, Sept. 28 meeting. 

“The bracing of the weak areas… can be done within probably 10 days,” Sap later told The Malibu Times in a phone interview. “The short-term bracing can be done within a couple to three weeks.”

This initial work does not necessarily include replacement of the pilings, which could take from two to five years, according to Sap, but it would provide greater structural strength to protect the pier from storm and water events associated with the expected El Niño.

“There may be … some pilings, but that has not been determined,” Sap said. “What in fact will happen is, there will be bracing that will go on.

“The idea is obviously knowing that an El Niño could be a distinct possibility, the faster they can get it done, the better,” Sap said.

In addition to guarding against an El Niño, the project is designed to strengthen the pier enough to move heavy equipment, like a piledriver, onto the pier in order to begin piling replacement.

“The midsection is really necessary to get that work done as fast as possible, because that will allow for the vertical loads to bring in the larger equipment which will have the ability to replace those pilings,” Sap explained to council.

Council members, though pleased by the news, were still concerned about the time this project has taken.

I think that our community is grateful for that,” Council Member Skylar Peak said. “But I think rather a lot of people are frustrated it didn’t happen sooner.”

Council Member Joan House agreed.

“What I’ve seen is sort of unacceptable,” House said.

Leo Carrillo steelhead trout get a second lease on life

State Parks and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) representatives came together Friday, Sept. 25, to show off the construction projects at Leo Carrillo State Park that are intended to bring back the floundering population of Southern California steelhead trout.

“This is a really, really important project,” Suzanne Goode, Natural Resource Program Manager for Angeles District State Parks, said. “Not only for fish, but for people.”

The project has removed two road crossings and a “check dam” that block nearly all adult fish from their spawning habitat up Arroyo Sequit Creek; however, the road crossings being replaced will make travel to certain campsites safer during the rainy winter season.

“This project will allow steelhead trout to reconnect with 4.5 miles of historic habitat within the Arroyo Sequit Creek watershed by removing two existing road crossings that block steelhead migration and replacing them with freespan bridges,” according to a pamphlet provided by State Parks. The freespan bridges will be raised above flood levels.

The project is part of a joint effort by nine agencies including the Bay Foundation, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, State Water Resources Control Board, American Rivers and NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program, among others.

“But for our partners getting together — cobbling together — the funds, this never would have happened,” Sap said.

As for permitting, according to NOAA Marine Habitat Restoration Specialist Stacie Smith, the project got a little help from the highest office in the land.

“This project was actually prioritized by the Obama administration for streamline permitting in 2011,” Smith said, but work did not begin until this summer.

The project has permits through Oct. 31, though it may extend into the first week of November. 

As for what happens after the work crews leave, Smith said monitoring continues. “Monitoring goes on as long as we can fund it and support it,” Smith told The Malibu Times. “We hope to track this project for a long time.”

One last major barrier for the native steelhead trout remains — the Rindge Dam, which has been the topic of great debate as to whether it should stay or go. There seemed to be little disagreement among those gathered Friday that the dam is bad news for steelhead.

“Every project we do is preparing for … removing the Rindge Dam,” Goode said.