Surfers have long had a stereotypical reputation of being laid-back and non-confrontational. But, based on the Malibu City Council meeting earlier this month, it is clear that if issues that affect surfers come to the forefront, they won’t just sit idly back.
On April 9, approximately 300 surfers, activists and residents (more than 2% of the Malibu population) watched the Malibu City Council debate the fate of Malibu Lagoon, a beautiful pool of water and wetlands fed by Malibu Creek and filled with wildlife. One year ago, the City Council deadlocked 2-2 in an explosive debate over a plan by the state and big environmental groups to dredge up and then re-sculpt the poorly circulating lagoon.
On one side, the project is enthusiastically backed by major environmental groups such as Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation, plus California Governor Jerry Brown. However, others feel that the dredging plan destroys nature to save it.
Given that the lagoon has played a dominant part of the election campaign, three surfers ran grassroots campaigns, with citizens ultimately electing political newbie Skylar Peak, 27, a surfer, former lifeguard and civic activist on Election night, which was the following night, April 10. Peak, whose win makes him the youngest member in the history of the Malibu City council, hopes to act as a bridge between the warring sides. Peak opposes the dredging, but comes to the issue with an open mind. “Both sides think there’s something wrong,” says Peak.
Bulldozers are set to dig out major parts of the lagoon and wetlands starting June 1. Scientists concede that many creatures will die and the lagoon – today rich in bird life – will become a muddy and unappealing construction site, only to re-emerge with a cleaner, if aesthetically different, ecosystem.
Additionally, there are concerns regarding a 2005 study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that detected high levels of Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a superbug staph in the sand between the lagoon and the ocean.
The dredging plan calls for the lagoon’s water to be drained, treated and dumped in the Pacific. But would dumping the lagoon’s water, even if treated, shift this hard-to-kill superbug to the ocean, and possibly make people sick?
The issue remains that the lagoon is in dire need of fixing and something needs to be done.
So, whose side are you on?