Malibu Lagoon Restoration
Malibu Lagoon is a 31-acre shallow water estuary occurring at the terminus of the Malibu Creek Watershed, the second largest watershed draining into Santa Monica Bay (MAP). It receives year-round freshwater from sources upstream and is periodically open to the ocean via a breach across the sandbar at the mouth of the estuary. Malibu Creek and Lagoon empties into the Pacific Ocean at world renowned surfing and recreational destination, Malibu Surfrider Beach, which receives approximately 1.5 million visitors every year.
Malibu Lagoon was long labelled an “impaired” water body by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (report HERE). The Lagoon was filled in by excess sediment and suffered from low dissolved oxygen levels within the channels that threatened fish and wildlife. The California State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), in partnership with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM), Heal the Bay, and California State Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) developed the Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project to enhance water quality and restore habitat conditions at Malibu Lagoon. The restoration plan for Malibu Lagoon evolved over a nearly 20-year time frame with extensive input from the public, coastal wetland experts, biologists, and responsible agencies. The project involved excavation of 12 acres in the western half of the Lagoon and the subsequent planting of native wetland vegetation. The restoration team removed contaminated soil and decades of built-up trash and re-contoured the channels to improve water flows and circulation. Construction began on 1 June 2012 and was completed on 31 March 2013. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on 3 May 2013.
Long-term Scientific Monitoring
The Bay Foundation and our partners conduct the post-restoration Lagoon monitoring, which provides valuable data for restoration success and useful data for regional comparison. Post-restoration data indicate several clear trends over the past four years, including better circulation patterns in both open and closed berm conditions, healthy habitats and improvements in water quality, and the return of several rare species to the area like the California least tern and steelhead trout. Additionally, ecological condition (as measured by the California Rapid Assessment Method) is substantially higher post-restoration, and indicates increasing wetland condition over time.
For more details, click HERE for the Malibu Lagoon post-restoration reports.