Friday, May 9, 2014

Destroy our Ballona Wetlands in order to save them?

Do the Ballona Wetlands Need a Big Fix?

Frequently we read letters in the local press from the new directors of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands who say the wetlands need major bulldozing by the owners, the State department of fish and wildlife, to fix them, or they'll "die". Source:   

12/12/2013: "Continuing to drag out the environmental review process only allows the Wetlands to further degrade (threatening species) and makes it more expensive to restore. Second, we are fighting “Tea Party” type groups that don’t want the government to do anything and consequently would effectively let the Wetlands die."


In 1981: "We, (and this includes the biologists who run our monthly walks) pointed out how rich and varied the wetlands are in their present state, that they are NOT severely degraded....and that even if not one cent were spent on them, they would continue to serve as an irreplaceable resource, both for wildlife and for people." Ruth Lansford, chair of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, June 1981, Letter to the L.A Times

It certainly sounds like the Friends didn't buy the claims of advocates of restoration by bulldozing. In the 1980's, the Friends were the sole environmental group standing up to protect the wetlands. In 1989, the Friends made a deal with the landowner, Playa Vista, to save more of the land. Unfortunately, the deal required them to repudiate others who disagreed with the deal. 

"In 1994, MTP demanded more. Friends of Ballona Wetlands were asked to sign a supplement to their 1990 settlement agreement. Under the new terms, MTP can require the Friends to appear before a public agency and disavow any statement (made by a group that has at least one current or former member of the Friends) that "criticizes the Wetlands Restoration Plan or states that the Revised Playa Vista Plan will have an adverse impact on the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands." After the Friends denounce the criticism, the supplement requires the group to say that its position is unequivocally to the contrary."from the L.A. Weekly 11/24/1995

In 2003, our state's taxpayers handed over $140 million to Playa Vista to double the size of the preserve saved by the Friends in 1989. Did the Friends retire, happy to save the wetlands that did not really need to be restored? No.

Fast forward to 2014: the organization's board of directors and managers are almost entirely new, with several being current or former top employees of Playa Vista. Others work for wetland restoration engineering firms.

So now, it is intriguing to compare the Friends' revised views on the health of the wetlands:

"we know, based on detailed surveys and the professional judgments of many of our members, that the Wetlands have been severely degraded"

The Friends are very proud of their partnership with the project managers at the State bureaucracy. The State's restoration newsletters feature a prominent plug for the Friends. And on the Ballona Wetlands restoration website created by the State's project managers are several large photos of trash and homeless camps, which creates an impression that the wetlands are a mess in need of this major bulldozing job. Source:

This website is jointly run by the State and the Annenberg Foundation, according to the State's newsletter titled Baywire (April 2014 edition)

And while the Friends support the Annenberg Foundation's proposed supermarket-sized nature center and pet adoption facility on top of the reworked Ballona Wetlands, they have said this previously: "Feral cats, or free-roaming pets, hunt and kill birds such as the endangered Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, and the South Coast Marsh Vole. Allowing access of these animals and pets into a protected Ecological Reserve is both harmful and illegal."

It is our opinion that the definition of "restoration" used by the advocates of major bulldozing is so flexible that it is junk science, all attempting to justify a project that is the most expensive for the taxpayers, and the most profitable for engineering firms. Given that we have shown already that the State's proposal is not historically accurate (, and unnecessary, and ecologically unsound, we hope that those who claim the wetlands are "dead" give it a rest.

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