Water Boarded

The definition of torture? A bungled, two-day Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting that flouted the Clean Water Act.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board held a two-day marathon meeting at the end of last week. I’ve been attending board hearings for nearly a quarter century, well over 150 overall.  The Thursday hearing had to be the most screwed-up session I’ve ever attended, and I’m now convinced that this is the most anti-environmental board since the Gov. Deukmejian days. Heal the Bay had seven different items in front of the Regional Board over the session, which took place at the Ventura County government building and then Glendale City Hall.

 Among the important items on the packed agenda:  the Ventura County stormwater permit, the Hyperion Treatment Plant’s discharge permit, a waste discharge requirement for a new development along Malibu Creek in the Malibu civic center area and fecal bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits for the Santa Clara and Los Angeles rivers.

Unfortunately, logic and a responsibility to uphold the federal Clean Water Act took a holiday last week.

After the 32-hour marathon, exhaustion and anger overwhelmed me.  My faith in the state system’s ability to protect our right to clean water had been severely eroded.  The system isn’t entirely broken, but it is in need of major reform. 

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Tourist Trap

Manta ray in the Sea of Cortez...and on local menus in Mexico.

Manta ray in the Sea of Cortez...and on local menus in Mexico. Photo: Paul Ahuja

I spent the last week on the Sea of Cortez with 19 other Aspen Institute Catto Fellows. I was fortunate enough to receive the two-year energy and the environment fellowship along with environmental leaders from all over the world and all professional sectors. Our latest session took us to La Paz.

On our first night in Mexico, I met an old friend, former Heal the Bay educator and marine biologist Paul Ahuja. Paul left the States to go to La Paz to study manta rays, perhaps the most graceful creature in the sea. Paul told me that he identified through photo-documentation more than 50 different individual mantas off La Paz. Within two years there were none. The mantas have not returned to La Paz in three years.

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