Ballona Institute: Environmental Leaders Blast State Plans for Los Angeles Coast's Ballona Wetlands
LOS ANGELES: In response to this week's release of detailed plans for a state of California industrial alteration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, a 600+ acre coastal oasis in Los Angeles, environmental leaders have blasted the plans for being harmful to wildlife, misusing public funds and contrary to goals to minimize flood/sea-level rise risk, and storm surges expected due to climate change."We are opposed to massive bulldozing that would destroy homes and food sources for thousands of native animals - some of which no longer exist elsewhere on the Los Angeles coast," stated Marcia Hanscom, Sierra Club spokesperson who has received awards for protecting California wetlands.
"The plan also pretends to be about public access when bulldozers aren't needed to open a trail," Hanscom continued.
Huey Johnson, California's Secretary of Resources from 1978 to 1982, of Defense of Place (and The Trust for Public Land founder, which brokered the Ballona land deal), also questioned the plans.
"Why is the California Department of Fish & Wildlife overseeing a plan that is harmful to wildlife?" asked Johnson.
"It's heartbreaking to me and to many stewardship advocates of our natural lands to watch this agency and others charged with protecting natural resources to be increasingly influenced by outside interests who want to make money off of landscapes and wildlife that are treasures to protect," he continued.
Robert van de Hoek, a former federal wildlife biologist and Ballona Institute President, indicated his organization will ensure plan details are fully illuminated to the public (including proposals to demolish levees since flood risks to the community could ensue.) He said:
"I was in Governor Gray Davis' office when he was considering spending a record $140 million for this land, because it is valuable habitat for some of California's most imperiled species. Why spend millions to erase every living thing and start over? That's not restoration! That's playing 'Dr. Frankenstein!'"
Robin Silver, founder, Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a lawsuit to protect endangered species at the Ballona Wetlands in 1997, said:
"It's shocking that California Department of Fish & Wildlife biologists would agree to release a plan not fully protective of the dozens of species at Ballona on the state's List of Species of Special Concern, let alone those that are on the federal and state Endangered Species lists. We look forward to reading the documents and standing strong to protect the wildlife."
Alexandra Nagy, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch-California, expressed outrage that Ballona Wetlands community leaders have been shoved aside in favor of private interests that devised the plan.
"Governor Brown is again choosing private interests over the greater public good. We've seen this with Aliso Canyon, the Delta Tunnels plan, and now at the Ballona Wetlands. Angelenos will not put up with this! We ask our government leaders - especially LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, CA Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Autumn Burke - to intercede and direct the bureaucrats who approved this plan for release to withdraw it and never let it see the light of day again," exclaimed Nagy.
Andrea Leon-Grossman, Southern California Organizer, Food & Water Watch, said residents she has spoken with would rather see public money spent to remove all infrastructure from the Playa del Rey gas storage field at the wetlands and shut it down, rather than paying to fix and prop up antiquated infrastructure. This new plan enables continued use of fossil fuels at the field.
"Our goal is to move to 100% renewable energy to protect local families and the environment. If we are serious about the planet's future and limiting the impacts of climate change, we will spend resources shutting down the storage field - which benefits the health and safety of the residents, visitors and the animals that live there," Leon-Grossman said.
Gina Di Teodoro Bryant, Earthrace Conservation's representative, chimed in, "We will not let animals relying on this land - to be left homeless or captured in crates so bulldozers can ruin their wild and precious habitat! Wholesale destruction of ecologically fragile habitats cannot continue under the false flag of 'restoration.' It's especially unacceptable because funding for purchasing Ballona came from voter-approved 'Wildlife Conservation' bonds!'"