The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to support the State Parks and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission plan to restore Malibu Lagoon. The 11-0 vote provided the last needed permit approval before the rehabilitation of the brackish wetland can proceed next summer. The restoration will increase salt marsh acreage by four acres and will provide long-needed water circulation to the often stagnant marsh, but there was still vocal opposition against the project. The challengers even brought in a high-priced attorney and an East Coast wetland restoration consultant to bolster their case, which argued against the use of heavy machinery to repair the wetland.
Despite these efforts, the recommendations of the Bay Commission, Coastal Conservancy and State Parks prevailed. Heal the Bay helped put together the plan back in 2004. Key testimony from renowned UCLA coastal ecologist Rich Ambrose and wetland nutrient scientist Marth Sutula was very persuasive.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Regional Water Board all had previously signed off on the project. Environmental group support from Santa Monica Baykeeper, the local Audubon, Surfrider and Sierra Club chapters, Malibu Surfing Assn. and Friends of Ballona didn’t hurt either.
Evidently, successful wetland restorations at Bolsa Chica, Carpinteria and San Diego County that used earth moving equipment helped sway the commission that the Malibu plan is prudent.
Other supporting factors included the fact that the EIR for the restoration went legally unchallenged and that no kind of development has been tied to the wetland restoration and expansion project.
After all of these years, the restoration can finally proceed. The end result will be a larger salt marsh, improved water circulation and water quality, and a functioning brackish lagoon ecosystem.
One of the Bay Restoration Commission’s and California Wetland Recovery Project’s top priorities can finally move forward after years of planning, studies and debate.