Surf Community Calling for Immediate Changes at Malibu Lagoon

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Adamson House and Pier

One of Malibu’s legendary surf spots, Third Point, is being ruined since the restoration of the Malibu Lagoon. That charge is coming from local surfers who have been complaining — even bringing their concerns to city council — about how the recent restoration of the lagoon has changed the flow of water and increased erosion that appears to be threatening the historic Adamson House.

City Council Member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, who is also a 10-year board member of the Malibu Adamson House Foundation, agreed, telling The Malibu Times that erosion at the front of the landmark is causing the lawn area to be undermined and warning it could soon turn it into a sinkhole. 

Malibu Surfing Association Treasurer Dru Lewis said that while his group initially supported the controversial lagoon restoration four years ago, he calls it a “faux” restoration.

“There’s nothing natural about the lagoon anymore,” Lewis alleged. 

With lagoon flow outward toward the east end, surfers say sand is not being distributed properly, ruining the surf and causing erosion.

The project was originally supposed to include removal of the invasive New Zealand mud snail, but that never happened, Wagner said. Thousands of truckloads of sand contaminated with the snails were supposed to be removed from the lagoon, but after protests from environmentalists, the sand was dumped at the west end of the lagoon. 

“Since the soil did not leave the site, it was added to the terminus area near the Malibu Colony chain link gate,” Wagner said. “In doing so, that material was mixed with sand and other soils, and now that it has plant matter growing on it, the roots have held the soil in place. Because of the compaction from tens of thousands of people walking across it weekly, the soil has made the area like a small earthen dam. That sediment issue has turned the lagoon breaching exit southward.” 

Wagner said California State Parks did a successful restoration project at Leo Carrillo “and if that was the case at Malibu Lagoon, we would not be having this conversation.” 

California State Parks Angeles District Superintendant Craig Sap said he acknowledged issues in the area. 

“We all know that the tendency for Malibu Creek is to drift toward First Point and it’s eroding sand in front of the Adamson House. This has been an issue going on for many years,” Sap said. “We’re looking at how this can be addressed to avoid additional erosion, but at this point we only have discussions about what can be done. The issue is more complex than State Parks just fixing it, because there are multijurisdictions that have oversight. It’s beyond the purview of just State Parks and involves other agencies, including the Coastal Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. 

“For us to say we have a plan would be premature,” Sap continued. “The reality is, more needs to be looked at including the hydrology of the creek and its tendencies. The other issue is: How would that impact the outflow of water to the tide pool areas? These are things that we have to discuss with experts. Every eco system and watershed is different. To suggest that other areas that have introduced a managed opening program would be successful here would be premature until we’ve had studies done.”

The Malibu Surfing Association is calling for action to be taken as soon as possible.

“We’re one of the top locations in the world. Someone says ‘I want to go surf somewhere’ — they think about Malibu first,” Lewis said — but the goods no longer live up to the reputation. 

“For the past five-plus years, it’s really been bad. The point’s not as makeable as it normally would be,” he continued. “In a great swell, you would surf at the top of that point all the way down to the pier, and that hasn’t happened in years. The ball got dropped. We need to move forward on a Malibu Lagoon management plan. We need to bring all the agencies to the table. The damage that’s being done to that point may be irrevocable. What we don’t understand is why the state doesn’t want to protect its No. 1 money maker.” 

The Adamson House is booked two years out for weddings and parties. It collects fees of $7,500 for an event.

With water exiting the lagoon and pulling away soil at the Adamson House impacting its stability, Wagner is calling for remediation, but he said it needs to wait until native snowy plovers are gone sometime in the fall. 

“The impact to the Adamson House will continue unless we modify the exit to the lagoon,” Wagner said. “I don’t think too many people will argue with that.”