August 2, 2012
By Lauren Stoneburner
Sometimes, it’s hard to let go. Sometimes, it’s not easy to embrace change; to take a risk. Fortunately, in the case of restoring Malibu Lagoon, we do not have to be afraid. The plan has endured more than a decade’s worth of scrutiny, having been developed and reviewed by many wetland experts and assessed for compliance with all California Environmental Quality Act requirements. Therefore, the plans to restore the lagoon are absolutely qualified to move forward and be implemented this summer.
Some stakeholders fear that this plan has underestimated the immensity of the restoration. Opponents assert that the plan is not prepared to handle the vast amount of water needed to be stored after the dewatering of the lagoon. They also worry that experts have underestimated the project’s costs and that changes will ultimately degrade public health and the native ecosystem. To their disadvantage, the opponents ground their argument in generalized claims, failing to use specific evidence in most cases. Such ungrounded claims should not so easily uproot the credibility of the project. The plans to restore the lagoon could not have been any more carefully put together and examined for accuracy.
Now that the project has been thoroughly reviewed, it is imperative that the city implement the project. The Malibu Lagoon is fed by polluted sources of water with high levels of nutrients, bacteria, and sedimentation. The excess nutrients have led to eutrophication, which depletes the water’s dissolved oxygen (DO) and threatens the entire marine ecosystem, and sedimentation degrades the overall habitat quality for marine organisms. The project would redirect the water in such a way that would restore the lagoon’s tidal influence and circulation, and thereby improve the water’s DO levels.
The restoration of the water’s DO levels is critical for several reasons. Firstly, the lagoon’s poor conditions have drastically limited the ecosystem’s species richness and biodiversity, thus enabling exotic and invasive plant species to out-compete the native wetland species. By restoring the lagoon, native species populations will no longer be limited by the diminished DO levels. This will enable them to better compete with exotic species, reestablish high biodiversity levels, and restore a balanced ecosystem.
The lagoon also provides critical habitat for several federally endangered species, such as the tidewater goby and southern steelhead trout, and it plays an essential role in the migratory path of many bird species. Restoring the lagoon supports the recovery of endangered species and protects migratory bird species, whose habitat has been drastically reduced due to human development, especially along the coast. In fact, California has lost about half of all of its wetlands and 95 percent of its historic wetlands.
As comparable estuarial habitats have been lost in the wake of human development, it has become increasingly important to maintain Malibu Lagoon’s integrity. The lagoon is vital because of its importance to both native and migratory species. Thus, restoring Malibu Lagoon is more than a local issue, for it effects populations far beyond the city limits. Most importantly, however, it concerns the survival not only of individual species, but of a unique and increasingly threatened ecosystem.
Sikich, Sarah Abramson, and Mark Gold. Letter to California Coastal Commission. 2010. Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project. SuperOxygen, Inc.. Web. 02 Aug. 2012. <http://www.restoremalibulagoon.com/downloads/Ltr_HealtheBay.pdf>.
Paul Preibisius. “Stop Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project.” June 10, 2012. Force Change. Web. 02 Aug. 2012. <http://forcechange.com/22655/stop-malibu-lagoon-restoration-project/>.
About the author: Lauren Stoneburner is a sophomore undergraduate majoring in Environmental Studies and Biological Anthropology at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.