SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The California Coastal Commission denied a request for revocation of a permit for the Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project Wednesday in Santa Cruz.
In a unanimous vote following an hour long hearing, the commission shot down the revocation request from Marcia Hanscom of the Wetlands Defense Fund and Roy van de Hoek of CLEAN, who made the drive from Southern California.
“Apart from the fact there is not a single shred of evidence that’s been presented that would be needed to support the contentions that would have to be proven for us to even entertain revocation. I’m especially concerned with and supportive of the finding that this petitioner failed to exercise due diligence in bringing this request to us,” Commissioner Jana Zimmer said.
Commissioner Richard Bloom, who also sits on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and recused himself in a 2010 vote on the project's permit, commended Coastal Commission for analyzing the revocation request.
"At some point things have to end. I hope that no further challenges will be filed. It’s time to put things to rest and complete this project," Bloom said.
Under state law, a permit can be revoked if the application for the permit included inaccurate, erroneous or incomplete information.
During public comment, Hanscom took aim at the process for the project’s environmental impact report, which was approved by former State Parks Director Ruth Coleman.
“The environmental impact report was never approved, never had a hearing, never had public comment,” Hanscom said.
Hanscom said a public records request showed that California State Parks Department and its governing body, the State Park and Recreation Commission, never held a public hearing on the project's environmental impact report.
Van de Hoek highlighted the discovery of the South Coast Marsh Vole, a sensitive species by putting up several photos.
“In that assessment, in the EIR that was never certified, there were detailed reports on birds. There were reports on flora that was thorough, there was a report that was on insects … There was a 30-page report on fishes,” van de Hoek said.
He said there was no survey of mammals.
“It turns out there is mammal life there,” van de Hoek said.
He said the bridges, which have since been removed, aided the mammals and birds at the lagoon.
“It was a wildlife corridor and birds nest under the bridges,” van de Hoek said.
Showed a photo of a heron eating a vole at the lagoon.
“The vole is not there now, as you can see,” he said.
Van de Hoek ended his comments by reading a document and a shout out of “Save the Lagoon.”
According to David Wiseman, an attorney for California State Parks, the State Parks Commission is not required to approve project specific EIR that is consistent with general plan.
“It was not timely and not filed with due diligence,” Wiseman said. “These types of revocation requests are really broad for the intention of causing delay."
Wiseman also asked the commission to consider granting a request from State Parks to recoup attorneys fees and other costs to staff.
Hope Schmeltzer, chief counsel for the California Coastal Commission, said the commission did not have the power to grant that type of request.
After the hearing, Hanscom said she still plans to monitor the project and advocate for any habitat that has not been disturbed.
"We might decide to challenge this denial of revocation. We might decide to go to federal court," Hanscom said, adding that she will determine the best use of her time and resources in the coming weeks.
She said the hearing's location in Santa Cruz prevented several Malibu surfers and activists from attending.
Craig Sap, District Supervisor for the California State Parks Los Angeles District, attended the hearing and said he was pleased with the decision.
“The commission vote solidifies our position that this project will repair decades of damage to the wetlands at the lagoon and re-establish natural processes that support cleaner water and healthier wildlife,” Sap said.
He added that he hopes there are no further challenges to the project.
"It is an expense. It is an expense on State Parks," Sap said. "... They should be working with state parks, not against State Parks."
Shelley Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, said she attended the hearing to show support for State Parks and to let the commission know "about the thoroughness of the work that we've done and the incredibly high level of protection and the resources that we've accomplished during the project."
"I'm not at all surprised at the outcome. It's clear that the few who oppose this project have reached a level of desperation where they are kind of throwing things out there to see what sticks and everybody knows it," Luce said.