Coastal Commission to take up Malibu lagoon restoration


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Once backfilled to create baseball diamonds, Malibu lagoon these days looks like an ordinary tidal wetland. But its restoration was botched, critics say, and they want the Coastal Commission to approve a $7-million project to set it right.

Steep banks and other factors have left the estuary with stagnant waterways that fail even rudimentary water standards.


The project, on the commission’s Wednesday agenda, would temporarily drain a 12-acre section of the lagoon to recontour it, remove sediment and replant its banks with native plants in order to improve water circulation and ecological health.

Times Staff Writer Tony Barboza wrote Tuesday:

The plan is more than a decade in the making and has sparked a rare public rift among environmentalists.

Although most conservation groups support the project and the coastal panel’s staff has recommended approval, some activists say the heavy grading, use of construction equipment and ripping out of vegetation is heavy-handed and would essentially destroy the habitat in order to save it.

‘If it was a tabula rasa, like a parking lot, that would be different,’ said Marcia Hanscom of the Wetlands Defense Fund. ‘But this is a thriving ecosystem.’

Backers of the project say that’s simply not true. The lagoon, they say, is degraded and suffers from chronically low oxygen levels, polluted sediment and such poor water quality that it has been listed by the state as ‘impaired’ since 1992.

‘While we think it’s much better than a baseball diamond, it’s just not functioning very well ecologically,’ said Mark Abramson of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, the project manager for the restoration. ‘It has major, major problems.’


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-- Geoff Mohan