Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Army Corps, conservationists visit Sepulveda Basin as feds plan to restart work there

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After suspending work on a vegetation management project in the final week of December, the US Army Corps of Engineers now says it will restart the project one week from today.

Work stopped after environmentalists walking in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area were shocked to see nearly fifty acres of land below Burbank Boulevard cut to the ground. At the time, conservation groups described the Corps’ action as a “mechanized blitzkrieg assault”  and a travesty. 

All along, the Army Corps maintained that the work is part of a five-year plan that aims to improve public safety in two ways: by improving flood control and controlling homeless populations and public lewd acts reported in the area. 

Now an account of a site visit to the Basin written by the Army Corps’ public affairs office and posted on the Los Angeles District’s website suggests relations between the nation’s engineers and the region’s conservation groups are improving.

The report of a three-hour tour of the Seuplveda Basin area also indicates that the Corps is satisfying inquiries from the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board. Those regional regulators earlier slapped the project with an investigative order over concerns that debris from the project could impair water quality.

Just last week KPCC talked to local conservationist Kris Ohlenkamp about the plan put forward by two environmental groups for improving what they characterize as damage to the area. 

In the Army Corps'  story published Tuesday, Ohlenkamp played a different tune:

"Our vision of this area is evolving a little bit, too, from what we're hearing from you, as well," said Kris Ohlenkamp, San Fernando Valley Audubon Society conservation chair.  "Agreed, don't put anymore cottonwood trees in here--you don't need them--but oak trees, yeah.  They're big trees, but they're very stable trees."

Army Corps staffers have told environmentalists that they will use a backhoe and an excavator to pull trees and limbs out of an area called the “pothole pond,” which they filled in with debris in December.

More specific pieces of the environmentalists’ demands remain unresolved, according to this report. But Los Angeles District Commander Colonel Mark Toy seems to have promised to collaborate with Ohlenkamp and other environmental activists going forward. "I want it to be valuable habitat for all of us," he says. "[B]ut I don't want it to be vegetation that's going to create a huge expense for us to maintain it."

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