Easy street it ain’t

William F. Pollock’s letter to The Malibu Times [Aug. 5, “Bridges to the future”] reflects the frustration many of us feel about PCH. I’m fairly familiar with landslides in Malibu, but I am not sure what he means by the “incredible fiasco at Las Flores” requiring a “third attempt” by Caltrans to fix it. However, in certain other respects, criticism of Caltrans regarding such problems in Malibu is well founded. The recent megarepair of a very minor slide on PCH at the mouth of Las Flores Canyon was unusually elaborate and, in the opinion of at least two property owners, as well as me, an especially dumb idea. Failure to dewater the Las Tunas Beach landslide is another.

Failure to repair the Rambla Pacifico slide is not so much dilatory as a problem of sticker shock. The only reasonable way to repair it is by buttressing which would raise the level of the lower reach of the canyon, and the stream channel incidentally, by about 30 or 40 feet. Meanwhile, the proposed Deerpath extension is highly desirable not only in terms of convenience but also property value appreciation and fire safety, and therefore by no means a “stupid plan.”

Pollock’s concern that unless we do something “really major” about coastal erosion it will “destroy the coast highway and many structures on the beach” is ill founded. Beach erosion in Malibu is a function of sand supply and wave attack, two constants that do not present an accumulating catastrophic risk as Pollock suggests. His example of repairs at Coronado is irrelevant to Malibu. The Coronado strand has an abundant sand supply, and whatever repairs have been made there simply involved a redistribution of that resource. Malibu does not have that luxury. There are, locally, opportunities for beach improvements. The Las Tunas Beach erosion problem, for example, is easily solved with a submarine breakwater which would have the serendipitous advantages of an improved surfing break at Topanga Beach and a marine habitat. The cost of such a structure, probably less than five million, is a tiny fraction of Washington’s pork barrel waste or even one day’s income from one of Hollywood’s culturally insignificant and artistically meaningless motion picture “hits” which do nothing so much as waste the time of the fearfully large twit-component of the public.

I don’t agree with Pollock’s critical assessment of the recent PCH repairs. It was a tough job done expeditiously while keeping the highway open. There are two solutions to normal, as opposed to summer, PCH congestion. One is the backbone route along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains so strenuously resisted by the knee-jerk environmentalists. Their primary objections are that it would (a) open more land for development and (b) irritate the wildlife. Neither is necessarily true. The other is the causeway Pollock suggests, probably unaware that just such a project, commonly referred to as the Highway 60 Route, was studied by the Corps of Engineers and described in a detailed report dated 1963. Aside from certain rose-colored overtones, that report shows an offshore route between Santa Monica and Malibu to be feasible. Of the two basic alternatives considered, an armored mole causeway that blocks almost all the wave energy, and a causeway on pile-supported bents, which allows the passage of wave energy, the former has the glaring defect of radically altering the inshore waters and for that reason could never be approved. Isolated artificial islands for permanent structures would be possible, but climatically rather questionable, it seems to me, except for very specialized use.

No one said things would be easy.

E. D. Michael

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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