Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: Homeowners pay new fee to live near fire zones, CA mussels first casualty of global warming

It’s Tuesday, Southern California, with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and lots o’ green news. Shall we?

Fire season may seem distant on a day like today, but California is already planning for it. The Los Angeles Times reports that Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature re now requiring “rural homeowners who rely on state firefighters to pay a $150 annual fee for fire-prevention services.” Gov. Brown says our cash-strapped state can no longer pay the cost of fighting fires for the 846,000 homeowners who live within more than 31 million acres of “state responsibility areas.” Experts feel this fee, which should raise as much as $200 million for the state, could mark a shift in the approach to developing California’s wild lands. (Pictured above, a fire near Santa Clarita.)

California mussels may be the first casualty of oceans made more acidic by global warming. The Orange County Register reports on a new study from UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory that shows the expected changes in the oceans may result in thinner, weaker shells and smaller bodies for the iconic mussels. Brian Gaylord is an evolution and ecology professor who ran the study. According to Gaylord, “These changes are going to proceed even if we stop emitting anymore CO2. Humans have made the commitment to an altered environment.”

Pasadena halts dam dirt removal to save toads. The Los Angeles Times reports that “The removal of 25,000 cubic yards of sediment from the basin behind Devil's Gate Dam in Pasadena has been put on hold until August in order to prevent the destruction of a habitat for toads.” Johnson Field, home to toads, is an unused Pasadena groundwater restoration basin slated for the dirt. However, the toads would have been smothered under the dirt had it arrived. The plan will be reconsidered in August when Johnson Field dries out and the toads leave for wetter pastures.

Ready to put Carmageddon behind you? We’re all in favor of moving on, but first check out this cool time-lapsed video of the Mulholland Drive bridge demolition. That is, the partial demolition. The Los Angeles Times shares this time-lapse video made by Times video journalist Jeff Amlotte. Amolotte camped out in his pickup truck along the 405 freeway to monitor the work on the bridge.

And finally, farms in the Northwest are testing out smart-grid-like irrigation systems. The Seattle Times reports that “Simplot, a powerhouse in the Northwest agriculture industry, instead installed a system that allows it to adjust its water pumping schedule - on request - from the shady, air-conditioned confines of an office to take advantage of fluctuations in the power supply.” The goal is to improve flexibility in the power demand and supply chain and reducing costs for its customers. Utilities in California are already paying farmers to put off irrigating to off-peak hours.

Image: respres /Flickr