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Proposed restoration of the Trancas Lagoon in Malibu inches forward


The original Trancas Lagoon, located where Trancas Creek empties into the Pacific, has for decades been the site of a shopping center. That hasn't stopped a group of local environmentalists and activists from fighting for years to restore the bygone waterway. The latest step forward is a meeting on Feb. 3 where Clark Stevens, an executive officer of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, will present a possible solution.

From the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society blog:

Once upon a time there was a lagoon where Trancas Creek meets the beach. Today, to the southeast, now shifted away from its supporting hydrology, only a remnant remains. A local movement is trying to restore some lagoon size and functionality, even though the original condition, now occupied primarily by Trancas Market, cannot be replicated.

Clark Stevens, will be presenting the conceptual design studies for the Trancas Lagoon and Lower Trancas Creek habitat enhancements. This work is part of an initial study, integrated with Caltrans' bridge replacement project, to increase the functionality and size of the wetland area of the Trancas Lagoon and wetlands and to enhance fish passage through the currently hardened section of Trancas Creek.

The lagoon, fed by the seasonal Trancas Creek, is one of scores of vital coastal wetlands in California that have, over the last century, been erased to make way for development. The long and complicated battle over restoring a portion of the Trancas Lagoon has involved law suits, feasibility studies, easements that have been promised and retracted, and the involvement of federal and state agencies such as (deep breath) the National Park Service, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Foundation, the California Coastal Commission, and CalTrans.

A bit of the more recent history from a June 2014 story in the Malibu Surfside News:

In 2008, the owners of the shopping center agreed to sell the property to the NPS. Initial plans for a connector trail and additional wetland habitat adjacent to Trancas Creek were developed. When the Trancas shopping center changed owners, however, the entire NPS conservation easement agreement was left in a state of flux. A feasibility study grant was awarded in 2012, but lost when the landowner revoked access.

Although the Trancas property, at one time slated for extensive commercial development, is not yet acquired by the park service, NPS spokeswoman Melanie Beck said the outlook appears promising. A smaller, privately owned parcel known as the "Boomerang Property" because of its shape, is also part of the project proposal and would provide an essential link missing from the current trail plan.

Last year, the current owner of the Trancas shopping center contributed $81,719 toward the project feasibility study. A $47,000 grant from the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program was also obtained, with a focus on the potential to increase Southern steelhead trout habitat and fish passage. The study is finally underway.

Dagit said an $8 million Caltrans plan to replace the aging Trancas Creek bridge may offer a opportunity to make more substantial habitat improvements to the lagoon than previously envisioned, and that the NPS, which is the lead agency in the project, proposes to work with Caltrans.

No one involved expects a restoration of the original lagoon, but the hope is that, using current conditions in the area, a new wetland can be created.

If you're interested in attending the meeting, it's at 7:30 at in Douglas Park, located at 2439 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. Directions, parking info and more in the SMBAS post.

Rendering (above) of the Trancas Lagoon after proposed restoration by Clark Stevens.

Next entry: The Palm Motel in Santa Monica

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