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Lagoon Project Visit 6/29/12

July 2, 2012
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Artist’s perspective of west channels view from SW corner (RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Nearly a month has passed since the project started, and the changes are significant.   Vegetation and footbridges are gone except where birds (Mallards and a Black Phoebe) are nesting.  The big scoops are removing the top layer of fill dirt which Calif. DOT/Cal Trans began dumping in the 1920/30’s, and trucks are taking it to the Calabasas dump.     The soil beneith the fill is being sculpted to create the elevated  islands.   Nearly completed is the berm separating the channels from the main lagoon.  Contouring of what will be the new channels is beginning.

Artist’s rendering of west channels at 5.5′ high tide (RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Despite the noise and the activity, several coots and mallards came in from the main lagoon and paddled around in the water in what’s left of the middle channel.   They ignored us as we passed.

Two coots in middle channel water (L. Johnson 6/29/12)

Mark Abramson had invited me to view the project up close; Lillian and Jim Kenney came as well and Suzanne Goode from State Parks joined us.   [Jim has been quite busy taking photos of the project;  see them on our continually updated special lagoon project page.]   We spent about 90 minutes walking around and talking.   We hadn’t seen Suzanne or Mark in years. since the last lagoon meeting we’d simultaneously attended.

The main lagoon, the Adamson House side, and the beach are not part of the project.   After the few remaining birds in the channels area are finished nesting, the rest of the fill dirt layer will be removed and hauled off.   The underlying original soil will be contoured to look as in the drawing above.   This drawing depicts the channels when the water level is at 5.5 feet, the height of the highest tides of the year.   We’re trying to get a map which shows the planned gradations in detail and will add it here if we do.

The tops of the four islands will remain above water level, even at the highest level of 9 feet which can occur when the beach outlet is closed and water has flowed all summer.   At this level, most of the long peninsula will be covered, permitting channel water to be wind-blown to the east.   The mouth of the main channel will be about 120 feet wide, far larger than any of the current channels, ensuring maximum circulation and minimizing stagnant pools.  There will be no intentional narrowing of any of the channels.  The three footbridges, as lovely and popular as they were, were narrow ‘pinch-points’, restricting water flow and helping to create the stagnant, anoxic pools devoid of life which in turn prevented invertebrates from flourishing in the mud.

Native pickleweeds and other salt-tolerant plants will be widely planted.   With luck and the passage of a few years, we might see the return of the Belding’s race of Savannah Sparrow, a pickleweed obligate which used to live there until a few decades ago.   Before the grading began, seed and plants were collected for propagation by a nursery in Santa Barbara.   This nursery helped in the re-vegetation of some of the Channel Islands.

The berm will occasionally be used as beach path during the project (J. Kenney 6/29/12)

The berm and the long yellow plastic sheeting keeps the lagoon water from getting into the channels.   However, ground water seeps into the channels area and is expected to continue doing so throughout the project.   The berm will be occasionally serve as the path to the beach when work must be done on the current perimeter path.   Many viewing features will be created along the perimeter path.   [Mark explains these in detail in his YouTube video.]

All work in the channels is scheduled to be finished by October 16.   Some peripheral work – re-vegetation, viewing platforms, benches, picnic tables and the like – may take a bit longer.   The new channels will be much more gradually sloped, creating a far larger intertidal zone.  This is the sort of habitat which substrate invertebrates prefer, not to mention the birds that eat them.

One cool idea is a path which doubles as a water level indicator called the Summer Clock – Winter Platform.   I can’t describe how it works so we’ll just have to wait and see.

A problem arose when a governmental employee in some nameless far-off land made a map of Snowy Plover winter roosts locations.   He got it wrong at the lagoon, placing it right where the the south channel mouth passes the large brushy mound of fill dirt, several hundred yards (approximately) WNW of where the plovers actually roost, which is out on the beach on the inland slope of the berm.  Presumably everyone is aware of this error, but until the correction moves through official channels, work can’t start in the erroneous plover area.

Speaking of plovers,  alert reader Kevin Anderson’s blog comment of 6/18 clued us to the fact that project guards were walking through the Snowy Plover virtual enclosure on the beach.  I passed this info on to Mark and several State Parks personnel and everyone has been told to stay out of the enclosure.   However, people being…well, people…don’t be shocked to see “official”-looking personnel wander into it.  So stay alert and send me a message if you see anyone doing this.   In fact, feel free to politely inform such people that they are not supposed to be in there, whomever they are.   The sole exception to this are the people (me, for example) who census the plovers, look for banded birds or adjust the fence.

The planning and approval for this project began so long ago and it was so difficult getting the funding, that I – among many – never thought it would actually happen.  When people asked me about it, my response for many years was a dry,  “Yeah…I’ll believe it when I see it.”   Well, seeing is believing, so believe it.   The more I see what’s going to be done, the more excited I get.   Once it’s finished, when the walkways are done, the viewpoints are done, the plants are growing and spreading, the water starts moving and the birds begin finding food in the channel mud and using the islands, I’m sure you’ll like it.

Link to CeCe Stein (of RealMalibu411) 12.5 minute  interview with Mark Abramson & Suzanne Goode, recorded 6/26/12.   CeCe plows through a long list of questions submitted by a host of people.  If this doesn’t answer any questions you might still have after viewing Mark Abramson’s YouTube presentation (see below), send them to CeCe Stein at RealMalibu411.  She will be doing more of these interviews and we will post links to all of them on our permanent project page.

Link to our Malibu Lagoon 2012 Project page.
Link to YouTube film of Mark Abramson’s presentation of the restoration plan for the lagoon.  25 minutes.  Highly Recommended.
Link to Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project website.  Various links to reports.  Not all the links work.

Enlarge any gallery picture below by clicking on it.  This takes you to a slideshow where you can go through all the pictures backwards & forwards.  Press escape to return to this page.

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