Controversial Malibu Lagoon Restoration Opens

City Terrain, West
Monday, May 6, 2013
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The "Bird Blind" at the revamped Malibu Lagoon. This will be thick with reeds in a year or two. (Guy Horton)

The “Bird Blind” at the revamped Malibu Lagoon. This will be thick with reeds in a year or two. (Guy Horton)

On May 2, the ever-controversial Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project—designed to restore the lagoon to its natural shape after years of disruptions and enhance the visitor experience—had its official ribbon cutting ceremony. Or, in this case, kelp cutting ceremony. The newly revamped lagoon glinted in the sun as egrets skittered along the water’s surface. Inappropriately-dressed (dark suits and ties) state officials and project leaders posed for photographs, congratulated team members, and handed out certificates while protesters (some shirtless and in shorts), brandishing hand-made signs saying “Paradise Lost” and “Lagoonicide,” booed and shouted at every opportunity. It was another beautiful day at the beach.

Protestors, a common site at the lagoon. (Guy Horton)

Protestors, a common site at the lagoon. Many worry that the work will damage the lagoon and hurt nearby surfing. (Guy Horton)

Clark Stevens, architect and executive officer for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, said in a statement that for him this represents “reversing the trend that has led to the loss of 90 percent of our tidal wetlands on the California coast” and that he is “proud to have played a role in moving the needle back in the other direction.” Stevens was responsible for all the public interpretive features that dot the path through the lagoon to make it an interactive teaching environment. The protestors worry that the new project will damage the lagoon and its many ecosystems.

As Suzanne Goode, the project’s senior environmental scientist said, “Things like this don’t happen overnight.” It will take close to two years for the embankments and berms to become verdant like the renderings show. Right now the only things swaying in the onshore breeze are the hundreds of little colored flags indicating where seedlings have been planted. But give it time. Though the protestors may never like it, the egrets seem happy.

Egrets enjoying their new digs. (Guy Horton)

Egrets enjoying their new digs. (Guy Horton)

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