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Malibu Lagoon restoration work begins on quiet note

Malibu lagoon
California State Parks employees on Monday salvaged some native wetland plants and captured 10 lizards in the Malibu Lagoon area as construction workers prepared to begin a controversial restoration project.

The Western fence and side-blotched lizards will be relocated nearby, and the plants will be transplanted at the site once the project has been completed, said Jamie King, an environmental scientist with state parks.

Scientists also plan to begin trapping small mammals for relocation once workers have fenced off the site, King said.

A small group of activists turned out Monday morning to protest the work and a few volunteers for state parks were also on hand to begin photographing the site to provide documentation.

The state had the go-ahead to start its work at the site Friday but agreed to postpone it until Monday to avoid interfering with a weekend surfing event at Surfrider Beach.

Opponents contended that the delay was prompted by concerns about the state's plan to drain the lagoon and reshape its banks and channels. Craig Sap, a state parks' superintendent, acknowledged that the contractor has presented a different drainage plan from what was originally approved. The new plan is being reviewed by an independent licensed engineer.

A regional water board official said Monday that the board had not asked for any delay in the project, even though it had not yet received the state's amended plan for draining the lagoon.

"We expect that the [drainage plan] will comply with the board’s permit," said Samuel Unger, executive director of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles region. On Friday, Unger had said the agency would scrutinize any new drainage plan to determine whether the state would have to seek a new permit.

Backers say the four-month project will support more plants, birds and fish and create a viable ecosystem with water flowing in and out. Foes of the plan say it will destroy the lagoon and flatten waves at Surfrider.

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--Martha Groves

Photo: Malibu Lagoon. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

 
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