Some Early Presents …

Chanukah came early for L.A. coastal waters

Just in time for Chanukah, or a little early for Christmas … It may not have been a MacBook Air, a PS3, or even the latest iPhone, but Southern California’s coastal waters this week received some regulatory presents significantly better than a pack of Zhu Zhu Pets.

The city of Los Angeles’ decision on the Low Impact Development ordinance may have been postponed (a cliché at this point), but the state Fish and Game commission and the Regional Water Board made a couple of enormous decisions this week.

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Season’s Gratings

Bah humbug! for MPAs and TMDLs?

December means the holidays, and some very cold weather (at least for L.A.) and rain. It also means me eating way too many baked goods.  This year, December also brings major decisions that will affect coastal resources for generations to come — specifically votes on  marine protected areas and trash limits in the Los Angeles River. Unfortunately, one of the other major decisions — the Los Angeles Board of Public Works vote on the Low Impact development ordinance – has been postponed until Jan. 15 to address the concerns of the measures’ opponents, the Building Industry Assn.  The environmental and sustainable landscaping communities aren’t thrilled by the second postponement in as many months.  I hope the January vote is worth the wait.

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Many Rivers to Cross …

The Los Angeles "Engineered Earth-bottom Flood Control Channel." Photo: L.A. Times

The Los Angeles "Engineered Earth-bottom Flood Control Channel." Photo: L.A. Times

Does Los Angeles County really have rivers?

Based on Thursday’s debacle of a Regional Water Board hearing, I’m not sure its staff believe that there is an L.A. River, Compton Creek, Santa Clara River, or San Gabriel River. Flood control channels, yes. Living, breathing rivers, no.

The item before the Board was Los Angeles County’s  Section 401 certification application on the “Maintenance Clearing of Engineered Earth Bottom Flood Control Channels” for about 100 water body segments.  (The application falls under a Clean Water Act section regarding dredging and filling of waters of the United States).

Unfortunately, the hearing on the item was cancelled due to a major faux pas by Board staff.  They inadvertently provided a pocket approval of the county’s application by not rendering a decision within one year of its submission. The county’s application was submitted and deemed complete for review by Board staff last August.

The end result? The county’s flawed five-year 401 certification is bound for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval with no changes and there’s nothing we can do about it. Continue reading

Bagging a Big Win

The Los Angeles City Council, spearheaded by Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Greig Smith, today unanimously approved a staff recommendation to adopt a citywide plastic bag ban by 2010 — if the state doesn’t enact a 25-cent per-bag fee by then. It also voted to support a Styrofoam ban on city property, including LAX, and at city-sponsored events. Councilmembers Richard Alarcón and Janice Hahn led the charge to move up the bag ban deadline two years, to 2010.

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Corps Conflict

The L.A. River

The L.A. River

I recently had the chance to meet with Col. Thomas Magness, the head of the Los Angeles unit of the Army Corps of Engineers, which made the recent horrible decision to declare only a small portion of the Los Angeles River a so-called Traditionally Navigable Water. It’s a complicated story, but the Corps has jurisdiction over much of the river. The Corps, based on its interpretation of an anti-environmental 2005 Supreme Court decision, has decided to leave large portions of the river, including the Arroyo Seco, Tujunga Wash and Glendale Narrows, unprotected from pollution safeguards under the Clean Water Act – based largely on the fact that you can’t get a steamship through them.

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Power to the People

Large cleanups along the Los Angeles River aren’t that unusual. Traditional environmental groups like Friends of the L.A. River and Heal the Bay have been leading sweeps for more than a decade. But a community drive to rehabilitate a soft-bottomed stretch of the river just north of downtown Los Angeles in late June was unusual, serving as a powerful symbol of how much the local environmental movement has changed in the past five years.

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