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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A Timeline for the Future of the Malibu Lagoon

I expect a 50-50 chance of the Court of Appeal in San Francisco issuing a stay on the start of the Malibu Lagoon project.

On June 1, 2012, unless the Court of Appeals in San Francisco issues a stay (I assess the chances of this happening, after reading the briefs, at about 50-50), the Malibu Lagoon will begin to be destroyed by the State of California. Here is what I believe will unfold beginning June 1:

1. CLOSING OFF PUBLIC ACCESS. Assuming that the California Coastal Commission has been able to issue all of the necessary permits (not a certainty, because a number of preconditions have to be met), the first step will be the erection of fencing and gating around the project to keep the public out. They say there will be an emergency vehicle, lifeguard vehicle, and public pedestrian temporary road constructed around the perimeter of the Lagoon, but I doubt it, in view of the construction of the filtration, dewatering and disinfection system near the beach at the end of the Malibu Colony Road in a V-shaped piece of land, and the heavy machinery that will be moving around the Lagoon during the destruction. My guess is that the only public access will be from the parking area on the other side of the Adamson House near the Malibu Pier. They might also build a temporary emergency access road/trail along the top of the dike from PCH to the beach, but the public probably would not be allowed to use it.

2. DESTROYING THE THREE BRIDGES. The state will first tear down the three beautiful bridges along the main, direct access trail to the beach through the Lagoon. I have also received confidential information from Sacramento that State Parks personnel will be armed with weapons while on duty at the Lagoon to protect them from unarmed "Lagoonsters."

3. CONSTRUCTION OF THE STAGING AREA. The Lagoon parking lot (Phase I of the Lagoon "restoration" project, which many feel was not constructed correctly, and over which the City of Malibu has CUP permitting authority)  will be turned into a staging area, surrounded by temporary fencing, so that dump trucks can enter and leave onto PCH (at a rate the State says will only be one per hour) full of some of the Lagoon dredged soils and fill, to be taken along PCH to an undisclosed location. 

4. CONSTRUCTION OF FILTRATION, DEWATERING AND DISINFECTING SYSTEM.  State Parks and their subcontractors will begin construction of the machinery required to dewater, filter and disinfect the Lagoon water in the V-shaped area mentioned above, which will have primary and secondary generators, weir tanks, electric pumps, carbon vessels and filters, resin vessels, and chlorination and dechlorination tanks.  The first task will be to pump a minimum of 48.5 million gallons out of the ENTIRE Lagoon, in order to lower the Lagoon water level to three feet so the dike can be built (see below). 

5. DRAINING THE LAGOON. The City of Malibu, in a letter last week to the Coastal Commission and State Parks, raised the issue that the restoration plans call for the collection and discharge of about 11,000 gallons per minute to drain the Lagoon efficiently, but the equipment would be capable of treating only about 1,000 gallons per minute, creating a deficiency of about 10,000 gallons per minute. This means that instead of taking 3-7 days to drain the Lagoon to a depth of three feet, I believe it could take 30 days or more. And this calculation does not take into consideration events like a summer rain storm that sends a larger amount of water down Malibu Creek to the Lagoon while the draining is being done before the dike is built. 

6. STORING THE WATER. What is State Parks going to do with the minimum of 48,500,000 gallons of water collected? Option one, as suggested by the City of Malibu, would be to store the water in 20,000 gallon "Baker" tanks. This option, however, would require a minimum of 2,500 tanks, which would be extraordinarily expensive and there would have to be a place or places on site to put the 2,500 tanks. Option two would be to pump the water into the ocean. The plans do call out a "Discharge Pipe to Ocean." One problem with this approach is that State Parks does not have a permit to discharge the water directly into the ocean, so they would probably have to discharge the treated water onto the beach sand and let it drain into the ocean.

7. CREATING CARCINOGENS. Malibu expert hydrologist Don Michael has opined to the Malibu City Council and in letters to the local newspapers that the combination of Tapia treated wastewater flowing down Malibu Creek to the Lagoon and its interaction with the water after it passes through the Filtration, Dewatering and Disinfecting Plant installed by State Parks and its subcontractors will create a new carcinogen in the water which did not exist there before. Pumping the treated water into the sand near the ocean could contaminate tourists enjoying the beach this summer, and could harm the Third Point surfers using the ocean near the discharge point. No wonder the City of Malibu has demanded that the State provide a full indemnification of the City as one condition to the City's support for the restoration project.

8. DIKE CONSTRUCTION.  Once the water level of the entire lagoon reaches three feet, a ten foot high temporary dike will be constructed from near the bridge over Malibu Creek to a point near the beach, effectively bisecting the Lagoon. Once the dike is completed, it is possible that the Lagoon water passing through the Filtration, etc. system could be pumped back into the main part of the Lagoon rather than into the sand near the ocean. The increased carcinogens discussed above might also endanger the bird and marine life in this part of the Lagoon.

9. THE BULLDOZING BEGINS. The bulldozers at this point will begin their work, as the draining of the Lagoon continues on that side of the dike to keep the water level low.  (It is possible that the endangered plant life on the dry land portions of the property nearer the parking lot will already have been bulldozed down to bare earth and the debris hauled away.) The bulldozers will start to push the Lagoon mud and fill toward a temporary stockpile area to a height of eight feet next to the dike. It will then be moved by the bulldozers to the main stockpile area next to PCH between the parking area and the Malibu Creek bridge, and the dump trucks would then roll into action onto PCH at the height of the summer tourist season. State Parks has a permit to kill up to five of the 5,000 or so Tidewater Goby fish who inhabit the Lagoon, and I look forward to finding out how they intend to do this, since the little creatures, when frightened, tend to burrow down into the mud, sand or reeds to avoid death. Federal government endangered species penalties await State officials if they kill more than five Goby, and they are found out. We will be watching, with heavy lenses. Also, endangered birds like the Least Tern are in their nesting season during spring and summer, and it could get really ugly for them when the bulldozers start rolling.

10. CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW 'THEME PARK" LAGOON. State Parks will then bulldoze into place two "bird islands" in the Lagoon, as well as several eight foot deep channels, and construct the pedestrian walkway around the perimeter of the Lagoon near the Perenchio "golf course" wall and the Colony fences. Here, they would also construct an amphitheater for tourist events and "theme park"-type metal shade umbrellas (to use a term coined by Malibu City Councilmember Lou LaMonte) for picnicking and resting. Signage would be erected to tell the visitor what they are seeing. Disneyland comes to Malibu.

11. RIBBON CUTTING.  Once completed, which they say will be before yearend 2012 (but I strongly doubt this would occur before well into 2013), the State celebration begins.  Not highlighted, however, will be the cost of the project, which they say will be about $8.2 million, but which I figure will total well over $10 million, money which could be used in so many better ways in cash-strapped California. 

And there is no assurance that they will do a better job in 2012 than they did in 1983…

Ted Vaill

hellwood May 22, 2012 at 05:44 PM
The State Parks sure knew how to confuse the public with the term "restoration". Someone needs to realize that the lagoon is just a result of bigger issues upstream. A real restoration would address stopping Tapia and removing the dam and all obstructions from the upper watershed that are preventing the massive flow potential Malibu creek once had. What they are doing to the lagoon now should be called "the lagoon regurgitation project". if you have diarrhea, you dont look for the problem in you A**. Stop looking in your A** for a cure for your diarrhea
Wendi Werner May 24, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Surfside News. In a response to the City of Malibu’s amicus brief, Christina Tiedemann, supervising deputy attorney general for the State of California, has requested that the court “disregard the city’s brief.” “The city’s brief contains nothing of relevance to these appellate proceedings, and nothing of relevance to whether the appellants have met the standard for issuance of a writ of supersedeas or other stay order in this case.” I find it interesting that the State does not want the water quality hazards associated with this project heard.
Trout Rule May 25, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Lagoon news...The petition is denied as appellants have not met that burden... Wetlands Defense Fund et al. v. California Coastal Commission et al. Case: A134729, 1st District, Division 2 Disposition date (YYYY-MM-DD): 2012-05-24 Disposition description: Petition summarily denied by order Disposition status as of 2012-05-24: Partial Notes: Appellants have filed a petition for writ of supersedeas, seeking a stay of the construction project at the Malibu Lagoon. To support such a writ, appellants must show irreparable harm and "that 'substantial questions' will be raised on the appeal and must explain the underlying case in a manner that 'facially' demonstrates the merits of these issues." (Civil Appeals and Writs, Eisenberg, Horvitz, & Wiener, ? 7:287 [citations omitted, emphasis in original]; see also People ex rel San Francisco Bay v. Town of Emeryville (1968) 69 Cal.2d 533, 537 [power to stay should be "sparingly employed and reserved for the exceptional situation."].) The petition is denied as appellants have not met that burden; specifically, they have not demonstrated that the appeal presents an exceptional situation presenting a substantial issue on appeal that, even facially, has merit. The application by the City of Malibu to file an amicus brief is granted.
Ben Marcus May 25, 2012 at 08:52 AM
I don't think the water that comes out of Tapia is polluted or dirty, I think the reverse is true. To write a story about Malibu Creek I actually tried fishing Malibu Creek about 200 yards or so south of the Tapia outfall - there is a dirt road off Malibu Canyon Road that acceses the creek. It looked like a decent trout creek but it smelled so strongly of chlorine bleach that I had to get out after 30 minutes - and I had a headache for two days. Tapia water, if anything, is sterlized by that bleach. There was no sign of life in the creek at all, except for some water skippers. So it's not polluted, I don't think - it's chemically violated into nothingness.
Trout Rule May 26, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Maybe because ignorant bullies have threatened proponents of the project? Do you think I should be subject to harassment just because my opinion is different than yours? Maybe I don't want to lose my job because I know my employer objects to the project? Do you think I should lose my job because I support the restoration Marshall? Maybe I'm not a narcissist that has to see my name plastered all over this site. Why should my name make any difference at all Marshall? I've seen many anonymous posts here that oppose the project. I don't see you taking out after them. What specifically makes an anonymous post have "zero value or impact"? But I guess if you can't attack the message......

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