Lookin’ for a home

The Natural Resources Defense Council has said it intends to sue the federal government for violations of the Endangered Species Act regarding the tidewater goby, a sometime resident of Malibu Lagoon.

The 2-inch, bottom-feeding fish has been found in California’s tidal streams and coastal wetlands since 1856, but since 1900, has disappeared from 74 percent of the lagoons south of Morro Bay. In fact, it had vanished from Malibu Lagoon but was reintroduced in 1990 from populations in the Ventura River.

Since then, it has been the subject of much debate among environmentalists, water-quality advocates and others.

Reconstruction of flood-damaged Malibu Creek Bridge, under emergency expedition order by Gov. Pete Wilson (January 1995), was stalled for a month to protect the goby during its March 15-April 15 breeding season — even as the National Marine Fisheries were protecting the migration of steelhead trout until June. (See related story on A8.)

Also, there is no consensus on how water-level management and pollution control efforts in the lagoon would affect the goby, which is known to be adversely impacted by groundwater overdrafting and discharge of agricultural and sewage effluents that cause algal blooms. All life stages of tidewater gobies are found at the upper end of lagoons in salinities less than 10 parts per thousand. The increased flow of salt water into the lagoon when the sand berm is breached (either during winter storms or artificially to lower the water table) could also affect the gobies.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt July 14, NRDC Senior Attorney Joel R. Reynolds said the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to designate critical habitat for the tidewater goby, a violation of the ESA.

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The service listed the goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi) in 1994, but claimed critical habitat could not be determined because detailed information on the possible economic effects of such designation was not available at the time.

The ESA granted the service an extension of one year.

Named in the 60-day notice of intent to commence civil action are: the Secretary of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its director, regional director and field supervisor for the Ventura Field Office. Field Supervisor Diane K. Noda was unavailable for comment Tuesday as to whether the service had responded to the NRDC letter

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

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