Memo to Antonio … continued

It's time to treat L.A.'s rivers as habitat rather than flood control channels. Photo:

Yesterday,  I outlined  my top three green initiatives that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should tackle in the remainder of his second term. Here’s a look at some other environmental issues that he should make a priority:

Fast-track city approval of a Stream Protection Ordinance in 2010. The Department of Public Works has spent three and a half years working on a stream protection ordinance.  Based on Watershed Protection Division analysis, there are approximately 462 miles of riparian habitat that would receive some level of protection under the draft ordinance.  Council districts 11 (Rosendahl), 2 (Krekorian), and 12 (Smith) all have over 60 miles of habitat, while 11 out of 15 districts have at least 12 miles of habitat.  The ordinance would protect the city’s remaining stream habitat by requiring development buffer zones of 100 feet for soft-bottomed habitat and 30 feet for concrete-lined channels. We need to start treating streams like habitat rather than flood control channels. Unfortunately, the ordinance has been frozen in the mayor’s office for over two years. If the mayor says he wants to protect L.A.’s streams, the ordinance would likely sail through City Council.  Unfortunately, the ordinance is not on the mayor’s radar.

Build the East Valley Water Recycling project by 2012. The water crisis is only getting worse and L.A. needs to rely more on local, sustainable water supplies.  For example, the mayor should demand that DWP and the Department of Public Works build a microfiltration-reverse osmosis facility for the East Valley Water Recycling project by 2012. This water recycling project is what’s called indirect potable reuse. The treated wastewater is applied to a spreading basin, where it infiltrates into the groundwater. Joel Wachs’ ill-fated “Toilet to Tap” mayoral campaign in the 1990s helped kill this reasonable initiative.  The project addresses public health concerns by adding additional treatment to Tillman recycled water.  Microfiltration and reverse osmosis do a superb job of removing pathogens and emerging contaminants. The project should not have to wait for the DWP’s final water recycling plan (which hopefully will have a 100K acre foot per year target rather than only 50K acre feet).

The mayor’s water plan uses an integrated approach that includes more water recycling, conservation (how about an ordinance requiring waterless urinals in all public buildings?), wellhead treatment at contaminated aquifers, and rainwater infiltration and capture and use. L.A. also needs a landscape ordinance that will force locals to live within their water means by planting climate-appropriate plants rather than turf ready for Augusta National or tropical vegetation. A high-profile, water recycling project in conjunction with additional water conservation measures sends a message to Angelenos that we can thrive as a city using local water supplies. We are surrounded by water agencies that have a superior water recycling record, including Calleguas MWD, Las Virgenes MWD, the Los Angeles county Sanitation Districts, West Basin MWD, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, and the Orange County Water District. DWP can do the same.

Ban single-use plastic bags and blown polystyrene food packaging citywide. Our addiction to single-use plastic packaging is out of control.  In Los Angeles County, we use more than 6 billion single-use plastic shopping bags each year. We need the mayor to set an example for the region by banning plastic bags and blown polystyrene food packaging in his city.  Many U.S. cities and many nations throughout the world have already acted on these issues.  The global marine debris crisis is only getting worse and society’s benefit is limited to convenience in exchange for despoiling the most beautiful and isolated places on Earth. Heal the Bay’s Coastal Cleanup Day and A Day Without a Bag are not enough.  Behavioral change will be far more effective if our product choices are sustainable.

Support the state policy to phase out once-through cooling in coastal power plants. The DWP has stated its support of the draft policy to transition out of once-through cooling, which literally sucks the life out of the ocean by using seawater to cool plants. The agency says it can’t meet the 2017 deadline to convert its three coastal power plants. The state policy gives DWP the opportunity to repower the coastal power plants with more energy efficient technologies (sorely needed) as long as they use closed cycle or recycled cooling. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that once-through cooling is not Best Available Technology for compliance with the Clean Water Act. Under the draft state policy, reduction of impingement of fish and entrainment of fish larvae must be greater than 90% or so. L.A. needs to support the policy and offer detailed explanations for why its three power plants can’t meet the 2017 deadlines. However, the city shouldn’t ask for more than an additional three years to comply with the policy. The DWP should support the current policy with the 2017 deadline. At the most, they should support the policy with a 2020 deadline. Along with a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas, the phase out of once-through cooling in California will go a long way towards restoring sustainable fisheries along our coast.

I’ve prattled on enough, but there are many more green issues on which the mayor can have a positive impact. Clearly, moving towards more renewable energy and energy conserving technologies and creating a green enterprise zone are two of his top priorities. The mayor lends his considerable clout to subway and light-rail issues and greening the goods transportation efforts at the Port of L.A. And I’m particularly excited by the potential of the city’s Zero Waste Plan.

If the mayor resolves to have the city achieve the modest goals listed above, then his bold promise of making L.A. the cleanest, greenest major city in America will have a chance to come to fruition.  More importantly, the mayor will have made his mark on making L.A. a more livable, sustainable community for years to come.

One Response

  1. […] a progressive environmental/water agenda for L.A. in the year ahead. To read it, click here1 and here2. Gold’s recommendations include many of L.A. Creek Freak’s favorite topics: Low […]

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