Project Critics Allege DPR Process as Slipshod as Its Accounting
• Malibu State Senator Appears to Be Distancing Herself from Park Agency's Operations
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Documents uncovered on the eve of a California Coastal Commission revocation hearing on State Parks' Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project are alleged by critics to raise serious questions about the project's approval process.
Opponents of the controversial project to drain, dredge and reconstruct the western portion of the Malibu Lagoon alleged last week that the Final Environmental Impact Report for the lagoon project was never vetted by the State Parks and Recreation Commission, which was responsible for providing final approval for the project, according to state law.
Public Information Act request documents appear to support the allegation, indicating "California State Parks has no records responsive to the request" for public records that "demonstrate that the State Parks Commission, in accordance with Public Resources Code approved the final Environmental Impact Report for Malibu Lagoon State Park, which is being utilized for the current 'restoration project,' referenced on the home page of the agency," the document stated.
Additional last-minute submissions to the revocation request indicate that the appears not to have followed the required procedure on the project, which includes "commission review reviewed and consideration of the information and analysis in the plan prior to approving the plan, finding and certifying that the plan reflects the independent judgment and analysis of the commission and has been completed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act."
"The California State Parks Department and its governing body, the State Park and Recreation Commission, have ignored significant responsibilities and neglected their oversight duties to convene public hearings and consider financial contract approvals, as well as environmental and planning documents for the highly controversial Malibu Lagoon project," a press release issued by Marcia Hanscom of the Wetlands Defense Fund on Monday stated.
"In addition, State Parks officials and their agents misrepresented the status of an Environmental Impact Report that was relied on heavily by the California Coastal Commission when it approved a coastal development permit in October of 2010. The document was never approved by the State Park and Recreation Commission, even though other similar project EIRs have been approved and the law requires such approval by the "responsible agency," which, in the case of State Parks, is the State Park and Recreation Commission," Hanscom said.
"This information, which was only recently uncovered through a series of Public Records Act requests and other research undertaken for a reconsideration by the Coastal Commission, is included in a 13-page letter from Wetlands Defense Fund and CLEAN which will be considered as part of a revocation."
Hanscom said that former Malibu City Councilmember Missy Zeitsoff asked the the questions that led to the discoveries that activists like John Davis, who filed the Public Information Act requests, and others began uncovering.
"Zeitsoff sat on the first Malibu City Council, and she has participated in numerous environmental reviews. The facts about the lagoon project just did not add up, so [she] kept asking questions,æ Hanscom said.
"We knew that many people complained of not being informed of the EIR, but we had no idea that virtually everyone was deprived of their right to a public hearing on the final EIR in front of the State Parks' decision-making body," Hanscom said.
An addendum to the staff report for the CCC revocation hearing refutes the allegations that the EIR was not finalized.
"The statement that the Parks and Recreation Commission was responsible for certifying the Final EIR is incorrect," the addendum states. "The department, not the Park and Recreation Commission, is responsible for approval of individual State Parks projects. The Park and Recreation Commission does certify EIRs for amendments to general development plans, but no such amendment was involved here.
"The CEQA document (Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Plan Final EIR was in fact properly certified by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in March 2006," the staff report states. "In addition, the Commission's action was not dependent upon whether State Parks had formally certified the EIR. Thus, the request fails to establish that allegedly complete and accurate information would have caused the Commission to take a different action, also does not apply. Thus, this allegation does not raise a ground for revocation."
The addendum also refutes the assertion that "the project required a general plan update that was not prepared by State Parks and that approval of contracts related to this project were not properly agendized, considered, and voted on by the State Park and Recreation Commission."
This allegation is unrelated to the Commission's approval of CDP 4-07-098 and does not assert that inaccurate, erroneous, or incomplete information was provided in connection with the permit because no such plan amendment would be required; thus, this assertion does not raise any ground for revocation," the staff response states.
The revocation hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 8, in Santa Cruz, after the Malibu Surfside News goes to press. Chuck Dalldorf, a representative of state Senator and lagoon project proponent Fran Pavley told The News that the senator would be closely observing the revocation hearing, but that she had no comment on the issue at this time.
Roy Stearns, Deputy Director Communications for State Parks, did not respond to request for clarification on the matter before The News went to press on Tuesday.
Information on the outcome of the revocation hearing on Wednesday will be available at www.malibusurfsidenews.com