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Life Returns to the Malibu Lagoon

Some 60 species of native plants are being reintroduced to the Malibu Lagoon.

More than 80,000 native plants are being carefully reintroduced to the Malibu Lagoon this week as part of an ongoing restoration project.

The plants will have about two weeks to take root before an earthen dike separating the main body of the Malibu Lagoon from the channels is removed. Under a permit for the project, the contractor, Ford E.C., Inc., has until Oct. 15 to finish the work in the wetlands area, according to California State Parks.

Three truck loads of plants had been delivered to the site as of Tuesday morning, with another expected that afternoon, said Suzanne Goode, a senior environmental scientist for State Parks. 

The process of reintroducing the plants involves several steps to ensure their survival, including placing color-coded survey flags at different elevations throughout the lagoon, she said. 

"When we take away the dike and the water comes through here and in the summer time when it is closed, these plants will be under water for most of the time. Some of them can tolerate that and some can't," Goode said. "They'll sort themselves out, but we're trying to give them a start by putting them at the elevation that we know they like to be at."

Volunteers fanned out across the lagoon, planting and watering the lower elevations by hand, one at a time.

Some of the plants were salvaged before the bulldozing began by Santa Barbara-based Growing Solutions, and then grown and multiplied in a nursery. Others were taken from nearby locations around Malibu. The plants are all native to Malibu, according to Tim Kirshtner, nursery manager for Growing Solutions. 

Kirshtner, who stood preparing the plants to planting at the lagoon, said the fall is the best time for planting, but his biggest worry is to beat out the weather.

"These are all originally from Malibu. We don't take plants from outside an area and grow them because there are different genes that are meant for plants. They won't survive very well if they come from outside the area," Kirshtner said.

He said at the nursery in Santa Barbara native plants are propagated in four different ways and carefully cataloged.

In all, 60 species will be reintroduced to the lagoon, even though only 15 to 20 were at the Malibu Lagoon before, according to Kirshtner.

"This wetland was filled a long time ago for certain needs of the city, for infrastructure, for baseball diamonds, you name it. They altered the function of the wetland and we're helping to make it flow, to clean the water, to make it more visually beautiful, to clean the air," Kirstner said.

He said the more diverse plants will help bring the lagoon even more to life.

"We're all working together really well and I think this is going to be a great success," Kirshtner said.

The Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project began in June and is expected to wrap up on time in December.

Jason M September 26, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Great! A lot of people were against this. That it should be left natural? The lagoon was a ces pool. It looked dirty because it was dirty. Have you ever really been down there? Have you ever stepped in the water or gone in waist deep down there? I guess bottles and cans and human waste is better. Really?
hellwood September 26, 2012 at 09:21 PM
...and the first big storm will bring new bottles and cans so the hacks will have an excuse to "fix" nature again. what a waste.
lifeisgood September 26, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Why did the State Parks rep, Kirstner, have to rub salt in Malibu's wounds by claiming that our baseball diamonds filled the wetlands? Kirstner's spurious accusation is ridiculous. The baseball diamonds at Malibu Bluffs were created decades before Malibu became a city. Nor has the city engaged in any major relandscaping at Malibu Bluffs that would affect Malibu Lagoon. Besides, why is the State so hot to "correct" the Malibu Lagoon? It still had water in it and birds visited daily, unlike another famous State Parks property, the Salton Sea, which has dried up so much that it caused the sulfur stink recently in L.A. Why isn't the State pursuing the repair of the Salton Sea? Is it because the State Parks bureaucrats feel the same way about Malibu as the Coastal Commission and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy?
Barrie Livingstone September 26, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Does anyone know if the pollutants upstream in Agoura have been stopped. The pesticides used in all the public buildings, schools and parks that all sit and run off into the creek and collect in the lagoon will continue to accumulate and be a problem unless the City of Malibu makes Agoura stop using them like the County of Los Angeles has already done. Also is there a report of what chemical waste was found in the sediment of the Lagoon. This is hugely important because knowing what the pollutants are and finding out where they are coming from is the key to this not becoming a 20 year occurrence. Can anyone shed light on this importance for us. thank You
Hans Laetz September 26, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Perhaps you are not aware that little league fields used to occupy part of the lagoon area, before they were relocated to Bluffs? Maybe you are also not aware that the state is actively pursuing a cleanup at Salton Sea? http://www.saltonsea.ca.gov/ourplan.html That one will cost billions. Our cost much less. Both are expensive.
hellwood September 26, 2012 at 09:59 PM
...nobody is trying to fix the real problems. they like goofing around down at the lagoon instead of addressing the problems at the sources. being proactive, and eliminating the real problems would eliminate their jobs. its better business to be reactive, and to look like heros having a mess to continually clean up.
lifeisgood September 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM
@Hans, thanks, I didn't know that the baseball diamonds were once at Malibu Lagoon. That was before my time. When I moved to Malibu in the 80's, the baseball diamonds were at the Bluffs. The Salton Sea is a lot bigger than the Malibu Lagoon, and it was visited by many more thousands of birds than what Malibu sees. Smartly run corporations take care of their big problems first, and let the little things simmer until they can be tackled. So you're saying that State Parks works on the little things (e.g., Malibu Lagoon), and let a far larger, more imporant bird habitat like the Salton Sea dry up?
Marcia Hanscom September 26, 2012 at 10:32 PM
The historical aerial photos - which one can view at SaveMalibuLagoon.com - show that there were two baseballs fields, and they were where the parking lot is - NOT in the area where rich wetland meadow soils were dug up and acres of native plants destroyed in this ecologically devastating project.
Cece Stein September 27, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Hellwood, C'mon now. I know you don't mean that... but if you do.... What is your solution Hellwood? Are you doing something, many things to make a positive impact? Doing nothing Solves NOTHING.
Cece Stein September 27, 2012 at 12:08 AM
The old Western Channels were dysfunctional because of historical ( well known ) environmental abuses and mismanagement. The substrates were stagnant and lacked healthy oxygen levels for benethic organisms as the building blocks of a healthy ecosystem. Heal the Bay is and has been pro active in trying stop upstream sources of pollution through studies, investigations, education and lawsuits. Did you Support Heal the Bay's lawsuit against Tapia to get have zero discharges between May and November and to lower bacteria levels during discharge months next to zero ? Did you participate on Coastal Clean up Day? How much trash did you pick up ( if any )? I can't understand what your attachment is to the dysfunctional "polio pond" ( a well deserved nickname by many surfers ) but do you realize that a well circulating, functional wetlands planted properly with native wetlands plants ( many of which we unloaded the other day on site ) eats up and filters natural and human sourced bacteria? How blessed we are to have voter bond funds to reverse the ecological crime the was perpetrated on the wetlands by Marblehead Building developers in the Colony and HWY Contractors in the 30's and 40's? Bird counts are higher since the project began, it is already a success and many people in this town already see that even though they were led down a very slippery slope of misinformation!
Marcia Hanscom September 27, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Read Wayne Ferren's comments to the Coastal Commission. He is one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and respected wetlands restoration experts. Which exact benthic organisms were missing? There were plenty - as evidenced by the documentation in the EIR, as well as the healthy ecosystem that was present if one understood the type of ecosystem this was. Making Malibu Lagoon's marsh into a different kind of ecosystem is a highly risky experiment, and, in the process, acres of native habitat - already functioning native plants and animals - were demolished. This is not restoration. It's a construction project. Read Dr. Travis Longcore's report to the Coastal Commission. Just because politics prevailed with the decision-makers does not mean their very highly respected and informed observations and conclusions are not valid. El Nino is predicted to be on its way this winter, and the Growing Solutions spokesperson has good reason to worry as to whether or not the expenses and effort they went to growing these plants were worthwhile. Will the drawing by a landscape architect of how the channels are "supposed to flow" hold up under El Nino?
Wendi Werner September 27, 2012 at 01:07 AM
@ Barry. What is coming from upstream is "beyond the scope of the project" per Suzanne Goode in a conversation with me. So, sorry to say, the answer to your question is no, the upper watershed and it's problems are not addressed. As a matter of fact, my husband and I spoke with an engineer from Tapia and he said that you could dig up the lagoon 10 ways to Sunday and the same outcome will happen again over time.
hellwood September 27, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I try. I didnt see any of you at the last santa monica mountains watershed meeting taking notes. besides, there are only so many things us mortals can do when the RWQCB decides not to play fair.
Wendi Werner September 27, 2012 at 01:49 AM
@ Hellwood. You don't have to go to meetings or hearings or lectures to learn, if you are a parrot and a puppet.
Cece Stein September 27, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Hellwood : ) We get our info - no need to worry... I'm a get your hands dirty kind of a girl. I get out there and participate. Just because you don't see me at meetings doesn't mean I am not up to speed. It's just as important to participate in the environmental and physical aspects of involvement in these important issues as it is to sit in on the meetings. Hands on is invaluable experience. You're a smart guy. I know you know that.
Cece Stein September 27, 2012 at 01:52 AM
No matter when an El Nino Winter naturally comes back around, mother nature will erode, scour and cleanse the shorelines of the watershed. During the 2005 El Nino floods the western channels were like an unaffected bystander, spectating the forces that were racing out to sea via the main channel. Videos show how the main channel raced straight out at 3rd point as the entire sand berm was swept out to sea. The western Channels were pretty much unaffected and just as likely will not be affected by the next flood either. But some surfers I know hope and pray that an epic El Nino winter will be strong enough to rage through the berm and rearrange the cobblestones at the top of the point as it did in1938 and 1969. The Western Channels are like a side billabong and not a part of the dominate forces of the main channel that follows a path of least resistance. The 2005 videos clearly show that the water in the Western channels do not push the main channel flow towards the Adamson House or 1st point .
hellwood September 27, 2012 at 02:19 AM
the meetings are boring and usually really suck, but every once in a while Ill get in there with the mayor and city manager and get some perspective of where they are coming from, what they are up against, and how interested they are in a solution as well. I have also seen some mind blowing shots of malibu creek pretending to be the colorado, and destroying everything in its path, including the bridge, lagoon and the entire beach. the wall behind guido's saved the entire shopping center. its a sober reminder of what this lagoon is physically capable of enduring, as well as its origins, and its purpose in nature. its just the end of the road for a bunch of debris from the upper watershed. a healthy functioning wetland looks good on paper, but is not necessarily what nature has in mind.
hellwood September 27, 2012 at 02:27 AM
a little more lipstick on the pig...and a managed breach and a rock wall behind the adamson house will be the next topic of discussion.
Cece Stein September 27, 2012 at 03:13 AM
The internet is a wonderful place Wendi and provides you with all kinds of fabulous information, including what was discussed at hearings, meetings and lectures - especially for 'parrots' and 'puppets' - but you knew that didn't you? Case in point, I didn't have to leave the city limits of Malibu to be a part of the Coastal Commission Hearing that shut down Wetlands Defense Fund and their time wasting, last minute ditch effort to shut this project down. I was all cozy in my chair with a Starbucks latte watching it on the big screen like a new release on Netflicks. Just a small example of what information is available to those of us who know where to find it. It's a beautiful thing modern technology.
Jason M September 27, 2012 at 03:33 AM
I remember being at the lagoon playing with remote controlled boats. I would feed the geese down there every eavning. I spent 4 or 5 hours picking up cig butts and trash. I wish people would use garbage cans. Only to go back there and trash all over again. I stoped counting after 500 on the cig butts. You are right Hellwood. It will get trashed again but only if it is allowed.
Cece Stein September 27, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Here's the reality: http://www.facebook.com/l/TAQHsdroxAQE6LuvDw2kdbEZD87dg6aGdIagOdIp_5EkDIQ/www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/06/us-weather-elnino-cpc-idUSBRE8850PM20120906 A weak El Nino is the best natural climate influence that can possibly happen for re-vegetation efforts at the Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement project. Warm air and ocean temperatures, high humidity, adequate rainfall, and decent stream flows will conspire to moderate environmental extremes in the lagoon during it's critical first year of its natural healing processes.
Cece Stein September 28, 2012 at 01:14 AM
WHAT A JOKE. This letter, written by Marcia Hanscom was in the Surfside News this week. As the CEO/COO ( whatever she is ) of The Wetlands Defense Fund, she has been collecting the BIG donation checks mainly from a certain Malibu residential group to oppose the Wetlands Improvements. Now, you would think that after all of the frivolous lawsuits that she has filed and lost against the Malibu Lagoon Project that she would have read the details of Phase 2 plans of the restoration. Apparently NOT. In her letter, she stated that her friend, Wayne Ferren, had taken a picture of the construction forms of the WINTER RAMP walkway now under construction in the western part of the Project and was surprised??!! Marcia asks in the letter, "Does any one know about this? I don't recall seeing anything about this in the permit or on the construction plans " OMG. This is a Nancy Pelosi moment. "Now that we have passed the healthcare bill, we can read it so we can find out what is in it". OH MAN. For Marcia to publicly admit that she is surprised to witness a major feature of the restoration that is SO CLEARLY spelled out with detailed specifications in the blueprints on sheets 28-32 of the Phase 2 plans has to be a complete embarrassment that further undermines her credibility to those who sent her checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Makes you wonder what her motives are when she stoops to this level of ignorance. Very perplexing to say the least.
Wendi Werner September 28, 2012 at 02:29 AM
For once I actually agree with CeCe.
Wendi Werner September 28, 2012 at 02:32 AM
The lectures and hearings mentioned are not on video. Enjoy the bark-o-lounge.
Cece Stein September 28, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Yay Wendy!!!!!! Now it's time for a BBQ : ) - I can assure you we agree on a lot more than you think we do!!! Victory!!!!!!!

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