City declares local state of emergency

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Lifeguards and the public are continuing to find oil-covered Western Grebes on Zuma Beach, which are being collected and given over to the Department of Fish and Game. On Tuesday, three more were turned over to the bird rehab center in San Pedro. The source of the oil is unknown. Nick Steers

City staff in Malibu is continuing efforts to repair damage caused by a series of storms that drenched Malibu causing landslides and flooding citywide, which ended in the death of one man and damaged several homes and roads.

By Johalmo Morales/Special to The Malibu Times

The city, in a special meeting Friday, declared a state of emergency for Malibu, opening the doors for disaster assistance.

Director of Emergency Services Brad Davis proclaimed a local state of emergency on Jan. 11 and asked the city to ratify his declaration, a result of a series of storms beginning Dec. 27 that drenched Malibu with heavy rain, causing mud-, land- and rockslides and flooding citywide resulting in damage to homes and city roadways and infrastructure. A sewage spill also took place last week, when a main sewer line from the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility broke, dumping two-thirds of two to three million gallons of raw sewage into Malibu Creek for most of the day and night; and reports of birds covered with oil found on local beaches streamed in the past week.

The local state of emergency will stay in effect until the city terminates the declaration, with a review for the need of the emergency taking place every 14 days.

On Jan. 13 City Manager Katie Lichtig issued a summary of the most significant impacts on Malibu from the recent storms.

The worst was a death from a storm-related traffic accident on Jan. 9 when the driver of a SUV lost control and veered off Pacific Coast Highway into the ocean near Big Rock .

Several homes were red tagged, deeming them unsafe for occupancy, and yellow tagged, deeming them partially unsafe. The homes were located in the Rambla Vista, Meadows Court and Sycamore Canyon areas. The status of the taggings may have changed since press time.

Several road closures and partial closures are in effect as of Tuesday because of damage or ongoing cleanup work.

One westbound lane of Pacific Coast Highway near Big Rock is closed; Topanga Canyon Boulevard, which was damaged when a 300-ton rock fell onto the road, is estimated to remain closed from Pacific Coast Highway to Grandview for up to three to four weeks; Fernhill is down to one- and a-half lanes due to damage on the road between Boniface and Sea Ranch. Rambla Vista is also closed at Villa Presidio and is subject to have both east and west ends closed, but city staff is attempting to keep at least one entrance open at all times.

Mysterious oil affects wildlife

While city staff began repairs and cleanup throughout the city, reports of birds saturated in oil came in to the local wildlife center from Malibu residents.

Winifred Adams, a local resident, was walking along Zuma Beach last week when she came across a bird covered in oil and, after retrieving a towel from her car as instructed by a California Wildlife Center employee, picked up the bird and headed toward the main lifeguard tower. On her way there she found another bird covered in oil. In all, six birds were retrieved from Zuma Beach that day and taken to the CWC.

Adams said she saw more birds being picked up in the same condition, while she walked on the Santa Monica Pier the next day, Jan. 13.

On Jan. 14, the CWC expected around 100 more oil-covered birds from Point Mugu located just north of Malibu County line to be brought in.

The source of the oil spill is unknown, although speculations on the source pointed to mud slides caused by recent storms, which may have broken an oil pipe, or cars and trucks swept into flooding streams, which released oil, but official confirmation has not been made.

The CWC has reported more than 700 seabirds have been affected from Santa Barbara to Venice by the mysterious oil spill.

Most birds will end up in the International Bird Care Center in San Pedro where they will be further cleaned and cared for.

Although Adams said a CWC employee instructed her to pick up the bird, the CWC, a member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, advises the public not to touch or even approach oiled or otherwise injured wildlife. When animals are injured they are even more dangerous to humans. The CWC advises people to call 310.458.WILD (458.9453) when they come across injured wildlife.

Raw sewage spilled into Malibu Creek

Also last week, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District reported that a bypass was set in place late Wednesday, Jan. 12, after the broken sewer line near the junction of Las Virgenes and Lost Hills Roads that spilled raw sewage into Malibu Creek was discovered around 8 a.m.

Large efforts throughout the day were made to locate equipment to install a bypass because other damage across Southern California made supplies less available. A crew was able to obtain 800 feet of 12-inch pipe, pumps weighing about 10,000 pounds each, along with other heavy equipment that included a 120-ton crane to lift the pumps around 4 p.m. Jan. 12. LVMWD Spokesperson Arlene Post confirmed the finished work and said the crew worked throughout the night and successfully finished before 11 p.m.-work to design and install a permanent alignment would begin now that the bypass is in place.

The spillage forced the beach to be closed from Malibu Pier west to Malibu Canyon Road, according to the Los Angeles Ocean Water Monitoring Program.