Lawsuit filed against Lagoon project

Opponents to the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project filed suit in state Superior Court Tuesday challenging the California Coastal Commission’s approval of the project.

By Knowles Adkisson / Associate Editor

Opponents to the project to reshape the Malibu Lagoon filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Superior Court challenging the California Coastal Commission’s Dec. 2010 approval of the project.

The lawsuit, filed by environmental groups Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All and the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network (CLEAN), alleges that by approving the project the Coastal Commission violated the state Coastal Act.

The California State Parks project, scheduled to begin June 1, would drain 12 acres of the lagoon and use bulldozers to reshape its western channels to allow for greater water circulation in the oxygen-depleted lagoon. Approximately 13,000 cubic yards of mud would be removed, along with non-native plants and shrubbery that would be replaced by native plant species. Several wooden bridges that connect paths through the marsh leading to Surfrider Beach would also be removed as part of the project.

The lawsuit alleges that the project will harm birds, fish and other species that live in the lagoon, and in doing so violate the Coastal Act.

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The project was scheduled to begin in June 2011, but California Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith issued an injunction last May staying the project in court action brought by the three environmental groups. However, Goldsmith in October lifted the injunction and ordered the project to begin June 1, 2012.

A major restoration project was attempted in 1983, after ball fields had been installed atop the original lagoon in the 1970s. Today, the lagoon is plagued by poor water quality and low oxygen levels caused by excessive algae blooms. Nearby Surfrider Beach, where water from the lagoon empties into the ocean during storms, receives consistently poor grades in water quality.

Supporters of the plan, including environmental groups Heal the Bay and Santa Monica Baykeeper along with State Parks, say the changes being proposed are necessary to correct mistakes caused by the faulty design of the 1983 project. Reshaping the western channels of the lagoon and removing the non-native vegetation will improve water circulation, they say, and increase oxygen levels in the water.

But opponents object to the use of bulldozers, arguing it is too drastic and will kill wildlife in the lagoon. They believe the lagoon will naturally repair itself over time, which stands in contrast to proponents’ belief that the lagoon is irreparable.

Opponents also object to the removal of four wooden bridges that connect a path to Surfrider Beach as a reduction of public access. In addition, a significant number of surfers have also registered objections to the project, for fear it will alter the popular Third Point wave at Surfrider.

13StarsManager
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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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