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Environmental groups sue to block restoration of Malibu Lagoon


Environmental groups have filed suit against the California Coastal Commission to stop a plan to restore the Malibu Lagoon.

The panel in October approved the state Department of Parks and Recreation’s $7-million restoration project, which would temporarily drain part of the lagoon and use bulldozers to scoop out sediment and improve water circulation in the pollutant-choked wetland.

According to the suit, the Coastal Commission failed to come up with a less environmentally damaging alternative to dredging the wetland and did not adequately protect sensitive habitat, including aquatic vegetation and fish.

The suit also challenges the plan to remove a pathway that has been blamed for restricting the flow of water in and out of the lagoon, saying it would restrict access to Surfrider Beach.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in San Francisco by the Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All and the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network.

Most environmental groups have praised the restoration plan, saying it would remedy the wetland's polluted, stagnant waters and poor ecological health.

The project is scheduled to begin next summer.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Credit Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (15)

This photo is not the Malibu Lagoon I know and have visited weekly for the past twelve years. This is part of the beach, but not the lagoon where many acres of habitat are doing well. The photo makes it look like the lagoon is sick, when it is not. Where are the hundreds of birds and fish that are evident on any given day? Where are the wetland plants like cattails and tules and salt grass? That's what I see, but your editors must not. Bias of the editors selected this photo. I bet your photographer had other far more beautiful images after visiting the lagoon

Of course there is opposition. There will always be someone who objects to any and everything. None of them have wallowed in the muck pit like I have, so their opinion is irrelevant.

With the State so strapped for cash, postponing this might be advisable. There's 7 mil that could go towards something else, and it would give them time to figure out a better way of improving the lagoon.

It is extremely inaccurate and misleading to characterize these groups as "environmental" groups. These groups have adopted names that sound like environmental groups but they are in fact homeowner and business groups apposed to any action that could possible inconvenience their way of life. These groups were formed by Malibu Colony residents and downtown Malibu business owners who fear being hit with big assessments to cover the cost of any action that seeks to make Malibu Surfrider Beach safer for the public to use.
These same home and business owners have been fighting pollution clean up in Malibu for decades. They incorporated the City of Malibu to fight for their right to pollute our water and sicken beach goers. The impact of the selfish act of incorporating the City of Malibu to block the installation of a comprehensive sewer pipeline by LA County through the then unincorporated Malibu region has been born by surfers and other beach goers in the form of cancer, heart disease, intestinal disorders, skin infections, rashes and even some deaths related to all of the above. I personally suffered through thyroid disease and surgery caused, in all probability, by my almost exclusive use of Malibu Surfrider Beach for my favorite recreational activity, surfing.
These groups are fakes, frauds and band-wagon jumpers who attended a single public meeting where dozens of meetings were publicly announced and attended by true conservation and environmental groups discussing the problems, issues and potential solutions to Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach pollution. Groups like Heal The Bay, Surfrider Foundation, National Resource Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Malibu Surfing Association have worked tirelessly for the nine years to bring about this historic restoration to not only benefit the Malibu Lagoon but also improve the quality of the surf at a historic and world famous surf spot which has been deliberately degraded over the past twenty years by these same homeowners in defense of their right to pollute.
Attending one public meeting, circulating a misleading petition and putting up a web site making fraudulent claims to achievements they did not precipitate in does not, in my opinion, give these fools the right to call themselves "environmental groups" especially given that the real environmental groups have fought long and hard for what these fakers are now fighting against.
Surfers are the single largest group of beach goers using Malibu Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Surfing Association represents more Malibu based surfers than any other organization. As an organization whose mission if to protect and preserve Surfrider Beach as out home break we, the Malibu Surfing Association, have endorsed the efforts of the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project as the best way to achieve these goals.
Tommy Nefcy, Secretary
Malibu Surfing Association

I don't think you know what you are talking about, Mr. Nefcy. CLEAN has been working to protect the California coast for years, suing the Coastal Commission for not properly providing mitigation at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plan, enforcing the Coastal Act against private landowners who destroyed habitat on National Park Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains and insuring that numerous other illegal situations on the California coast get corrected. Access for All successfully opened a beach access way that David Geffen tried to prevent, even though he'd promised that beach trail many years before as part of a coastal permit. Access for All holds dozens of lateral and vertical accessways on the beaches in the Malibu area. And Wetlands Defense Fund is an organization that has worked on wetlands protection in several places on the California coast. None of these groups were "formed by Malibu Colony residents and downtown Malibu business owners."

Besides being badly mis-informed about the nature of the groups who have sued over the Coastal Commission's illegal vote, you are also badly mis-informed about the nature of the planned project. Suzanne Goode of State Parks confirmed last evening at the Malibu Township Council that the project would "do nothing to clean the water for human health concerns." We knew that from reading the reports, but there has been terribly misleading information provided by some of the project proponents.

And finally I believe you are misinformed about what the surfers who use Malibu Surfrider Beach want. Many of them are supporing our efforts and are not happy with the stance that a couple of the leaders of MSA have taken, allegedly on their behalf.

Hi All concerned. I've lived in and around Malibu and in proximity to the poor, victimized Lagoon for MOST of my 54 years. It's undergone some not so needed "improvements" due to redesigning (a faux pas to begin with) in the early 80's and other impactful events, most notably from fire runoff, storms, floods and the relentless outpouring and draining of "treated" sewage from Tapia and other sources like Pepperdine and the overflow from the nearby shopping meccas. Simply put, bulldozing out this zone (which now TEEMS with LIFE and GROWTH of all kinds and people grateful to walk amongst the birds, animals and lush growth) is one of the most OVER WROUGHT and INEPT ideas I've ever heard in my 50 years in Malibu. Everyone should just LEAVE THE LAGOON and MALIBU ALONE--and stop all this frantic, ill-conceived, overly thought out and caffeinated modern development. What will the gulls and blue herons, the Pelicans, terns, lizards, rabbits, worms, snakes, toads, crickets and thousands of other happy creatures think of the onslaught of man's damaging machinery and plans? Redoing something that's for all practical purposes WORKING JUST FINE--is pure lunacy, a waste of money and a nuisance for the entire community to suffer through--and to have to RECOVER FROM--for the entire summer of 2011--and beyond...not to mention disturbing all the innocent plants, birds and other creatures who don't need this silly project to make their lives or OUR environment better! Please, people--let's face the facts. Enough is enough. Let the Lagoon and Malibu Be...Alden Marin

This comment by Tommy Nefcy is a TOTAL LIE. "It is extremely inaccurate and misleading to characterize these groups as "environmental" groups. These groups have adopted names that sound like environmental groups but they are in fact homeowner and business groups apposed to any action that could possible inconvenience their way of life. These groups were formed by Malibu Colony residents and downtown Malibu business owners who fear being hit with big assessments to cover the cost of any action that seeks to make Malibu Surfrider Beach safer for the public to use. "

Again, this comment by Tommy Nefcy is a TOTAL LIE. PERIOD.

Dear Susan James, sadly this photo is the lagoon, very close to the beach on the day an older surfer intentionally breached the Malibu Lagoon for a reason I cannot fathom. I was there that exact same time with Wetlands Defense Fund biologist Roy van de Hoek and the LA Times photographer. The different surfer with the paddle was saving some large striped mullet that were trapped by the quickly draining waters.

If you visit www.SaveMalibuLagoon.com you can see some beautiful videos of the thriving Malibu Lagoon you and I (and many other people) cherish. After the bulldozers rev up June 2011, all will be devastation at Malibu Lagoon so plan your last visits now. I wish it were not so.

Also, it seems crazy to me that in a time of extreme financial crisis in California we have $7 million to $12 million tax dollars available to destroy this living treasure.

Very troubling: Government agencies and the nonprofits on their payrolls see no problem in spending millions of our tax dollars to bulldoze and rebuild a coastal state park while the budget for a state park project in a low-income, park-poor area near downtown Los Angeles is slashed by two-thirds.


you know we are friends BUT...
you are NOT the voice of the malibu surfing assc. or any other surfer but yourself. If you recall the MSA meeting that i attended just before the coastal commission hearing the majority of the members present signed the petition in opposition to the project.
You and Michael Blum took it upon yourselves to represent the whole club which then was taken as a stamp of approval by "the malibu surfing community" for the project what a joke !!!
This project will not improve the circulation in the lagoon anymore than if we were able to use shovels and keep the lagoon breached furthest to the west. which if the fish and game would allow we would do for FREE !. which would also make the shape of the point better. i'll tell you that if they get their way, this lagoon will hold more water and breach less often and will most likely be the outfall for a malibu sewer after it hits the legacy swamp/park.IT WILL NOT HELP THE SHAPE OF THE POINT only hurt it. More water to the west which will make it want to breach down by the pier.

I saw their map overlay of the project...it was based on a breach point to the very west. these guys don't know what they are talking about. thay took an aerial photo from 2002 that showed a perfect illegal braching and based the plan on that. it won't just stay up there so we will have the same problem but that's ok cuz they can come back every 5 years and dredge it out again.

you want to blame malibu residents for the pollution and that just isn't right.

it's been TAPIA dumping water all these years. that and the lagoon was never cut behind the colony to begin with. it is just tapia's final holding tank. I would really like to see what happens when the water from tapia gets redirected and the lagoon drys up when it isn't raining.
you could also go look at pepperdine who dumps all their overflow into maria canyon which comes back down to malibu rd. to the ocean. they do whatever they want.

and to say that these groups that are agaisnt it are fakers... let's be clear on the fact that HEAL THE BAY was paid to endorse this.
I have lived in malibu my whole life and know malibu and that area as well as anyone but i wasn't involved or informed of any of the planning hearings. not very transperant !!!

i put up my own $$$ to help pay legal to fight this.

Why is Tommy Nefcy, slandering environmentalists? Why is he claiming that the environmentalists against the proposed Malibu Lagoon "Restoration" Project are homeowner and business groups in disguise? (Ha HA Ha that's funny - so many are hard working and sincere "regular guys" - and include surfers). With title, Secretary Malibu Surfing Association I wonder if he's really the one in disguise.
I agree that indeed there is pollution. However, Nefcy is deluded if he thinks that the proposed Malibu Lagoon "Restoration" Project will clean this up. It is he that believes "misleading information". I was present at a meeting where Suzanne Goode said more than once that this project WILL NOT address cleaning up the water...that the project WAS NOT addressing the human health issues. And although some groups who are regarded as environmental groups support this plan, does that make it right? Remember "question authority"! Perhaps all the money that Heal the Bay (HTB) got through this proposed project - and why they support the proposed project - is that they can use it to go in and cleanup the water for the human health issues - and play hero for good P.R. That could be a positive way to look at this. However, I cannot help but wonder if there isn't some "human pollution of ethics going on" and if "going green" to HTB means raking in some bucks.

There's nothing misleading about life or death! This proposed project will murder hundreds and hundreds of Goby's, plants (native as well as non-native), and animals - plus displace many many birds and animals. (San Fernando Valley Audubon and Pasadena Audubon have opposed this project). It's very simple - support life at Malibu Lagoon - or not. Bulldoze - or not. Yes or No. Simple. This proposed project is merely an experiment... the Lagoon is thriving RIGHT NOW - go and visit and be in awe at all the beauty.
The human water health issue IS NOT going to be addressed with this proposed project.
So broaden your research and don't let your distaste or bias for the homeowners or business owners cloud the truth. Some of the environmentalists that are fighting this proposed project don't live in Malibu, don't own their own home, or business - but are people who care about life - who understand the ecology of wetlands, and who will fight for animals/plants - for our environment - as "their voice".
The Lagoon has become a beautiful and thriving habitat - nature has been doing it all by herself.
There are many people who are willing to use their own hands to clean up and pull plants. What does it matter if this would take longer than a bulldozer? What's the hurry? This would save so many lives and create harmony.
So, Tommy Nefcy, you are secretary of the Malibu Surfing Association... I hope that title doesn't make people think you represent the surfers in the Association - your comment is YOUR comment - realize that there are MANY surfers who do NOT agree with you and who do support life in the Lagoon and are against the proposed Malibu Lagoon "Restoration" Project.

I think that the LA Times story fans a biased flame to sell more tickets. Perhaps that is a good thing to encourage people to at least -wake up. "STOP A PLAN"..to restore Malibu Lagoon? Reality is..HAVE A BETTER PLAN, one that doesn't ensure destruction of endangered species and still strives to ensure a healthy thriving ecosystem. The environmental organizations and members suing DO have a long history of California ecosystem protection and involvement at Malibu Lagoon. Mr. Nefcy is thoroughly off base regarding these environmental groups.
However, I applaud Mr. Nefcy with bringing out the elephant in the room--the true culprits of "nutrient overload" into Malibu Lagoon which have gone unaddressed even now--- the infamous Malibu septic systems. Up-creek watershed sewage contamination also goes mainly ignored while the 7 million "restoration" money provides a payroll for a quickie bull-doze and monitor the bull -doze that proves too tantalizing for some "BAY- environmental groups" to turn down. Too tantalizing to turn down when the harder road, the more enduring road is to step on some toes and tackle the real problem-human waste.
Who can blame anyone wanting to swim or surf in the Bay without getting sick? But, who can blame anyone that is volunteering their life away to protect what little ecosystems we have still have.
I certainly want surviving wildlife ecosystems and I don't think it is fair to gambol recklessly with bulldozer approaches that even the Coastal Commission acknowledges FAILED in the 1983 bulldozer quicky fix to the contamination. But they know more now.........using scare tactics like, if we don't do this, this way and now we will have irreparable harm.....right. I don't think so.
But, I do think that those "approving environmental groups" that are getting part of the 7 million payroll fall way short on honesty and simply refuse compromise for a project that should--first-do-no-harm.

The entire premise for messing with the current wetland / lagoon area is the flow of water and demonstrates utter disregard for the Tapia discharge down into Malibu Creek and Pepperdine's permit to discharge 2 million gallons per year, some of which is discharged into Malibu Creek. Pepperdine has substantially increased in size but its treatment facility has not increased. Over $1 million was spent to build a filter center on Malibu Road where Marie Canyon leads to the ocean. Since then, many "F" ratings have been issued to this area, rendering the expenditure a total waste (or pocket stuffing). Why don't all of us in this conversation agree to a conference to discuss the REAL and ULTIMATE solution to the challenges I just described?

I totally agree with ObserverELACo's Dec 7 comment about the inner city park getting it's budget slashed. We in Malibu do not want the Lagoon destroyed in order to save it. The Lagoon belongs to all Californians and visitors and is fine just the way it is. Some community volunteer work can definitely be the right approach to "improving" it. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars that can go to better use in "a low-income, park-poor area near downtown Los Angeles."

I would like to set the record straight regarding Tommy Nefce's comment that the NRDC supports this ill-conceived plan to bulldoze Malibu Lagoon. First off Mr. Nefce the 'N' in NRDC stands for Natural, not National. The lagoon is a natural resource and should be treated as such. Secondly, I spoke to Joel Reynolds (a lawyer for the NRDC) when I was in Sacramento last month and I asked him if the NRDC had taken a stance on this issue. His answer: a chuckle followed by "We will have to ask our team of bulldozers what they think".

If you wish to be taken seriously, it is best to be informed of all the facts.
Misinformation will in no way help your case Mr. Nefce.

I would also like to point out that I am an avid surfer and a Malibu resident and I can assure you that most surfers are extremely upset about this proposed lobotomy. This lagoon has been one of Malibu's gems and now it is being threatened by a group of people that obviously don't understand how important it is to keep ecosystems in tact. You cannot discard the parts you don't like and keep the rest, it doesn't work that way. Every grain of sand, every tiny bug you may or may not appreciate, every little fish plays an important role in the function of this ecosystem.

Let us not destroy something in order to save it, the lagoon has taken almost three decades to get where it is today. There are less damaging alternatives; that is where the focus should be.

Athena Shlien


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