Early winter storms and other delays at the Malibu Lagoon have put the restoration project more than two months behind schedule.
The California Coastal Commission granted a 2.5 month extension on Dec. 21 to California State Parks for the project's permit, which was set to expire on Dec. 31.
Work in the wetlands wrapped up in October, but the contractor, Ford E.C. Inc., asked for more time to complete work on the outer edges of the project, including the construction of a bird observation area, pathways, signage some planting and removal of construction equipment.
The delays are not expected to impact sensitive species and biological monitoring will continue, according to Coastal Commission staff.
The project came under fire earlier this month by a group of Malibu residents and surfers who criticized State Parks for turning the lagoon into a "mud pit."
At the Dec. 10 Malibu City Council meeting, Craig Sap, Superintendent for the Angeles District, told councilmembers the project is on schedule and everything was going according to plan.
"At a subsequent meeting on Dec. 13, the contractor produced a new estimated completion schedule as a result of the cumulative effects of several unanticipated factors," Sap said in an email.
According to Sap, the reasons for the delays are:
- Migratory bird nesting extended longer than anticipated. New nests continued to be recruited in protected areas even after construction began, resulting in delays.
- On June 19, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat for the western snowy plover within the project footprint. Even though this portion of the project did not meet criteria for critical habitat, this required a month-long consultation period with the Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. This prevented work from occurring on a large portion of the project site.
- Construction of an unanticipated grade control structure was necessitated by a settlement agreement to not construct a wall along the southern property boundary. This constituted extra work and pulled resources from planned construction to accommodate the structure that also forms part of the maintenance access path required by the settlement agreement.
- Unstable soils in the winter platform area required over-excavation and slurry mix placement.
- The entrance to the interpretive area required redesign due to minor plan errors.
- Long lead times are required for custom fabrication of the three dimensional watershed fountain model and the kelp canopy shade structure. These involve intricate patterns that proved more complicated than initial time estimates allowed.
- Initial plant propagation was delayed by legal proceedings so that many upland plants have not developed sufficient root structure for planting in December. Additional time will allow them to be planted in January and successfully compete with adjacent hydroseeded plants.
Sap said the biggest delay was due to a rainy December.
"Best Management Practices worked as designed and retained water runoff on the site, however this resulted in wet conditions that took several days to dry out after each storm event," Sap said. "Construction equipment cannot access the site until it is sufficiently dry."
He said there is a plan to alleviate the muddy conditions and allow better access to the construction site during rain events.
"This will allow for maximum effort and compress the construction schedule," Sap said.