Southern California environment news and trends

Legal battle keeps protection along California's coast in doubt [UPDATED]

Is the MLPA here to stay? Fishermen don't think so. Now one of 'em's suggesting the state shut down the Marine Life Protection Act to keep 70 California State Parks open that budget cuts would otherwise shut. 

Dan Bacher is legen (wait for it) dary as a managing editor, reporter and opinionator for The Fish Sniffer. In Sacramento this week, his editorial "Save State Parks - Shut Down the MLPA Intiative" has been making the rounds. A sample: 

This corrupt initiative, begun by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, wastes up to $40 million of the state's money every year, funds that could be spent on maintaining and patrolling State Parks. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative creates fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean waters from water pollution, military testing, oil spills and drilling, wave energy projects, habitat destruction and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who has called repeatedly for new oil drilling off the California coast, chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force and served on the North Central Coast and North Coast Task Forces. This fact in and of itself demonstrates that the MLPA Initiative has nothing to do with real marine protection.

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Could the lower Owens River be LA's playground?

With spring in full swing, and the Lower Owens River lush after a wet winter, the LA Department of Water and Power and Inyo County officials have been asking the eastern Sierra: “What would you do if you could make a new river and wetlands? How would you play on, preserve and enjoy the area?”

That's Larry Freilich, Inyo County Mitigation Projects manager. He spoke to the Inyo Register about the lower Owens River south of Big Pine. 

So, by now you know the story, yes? Of these 62 miles of river? High Country News told part of it: 

Inyo County’s Lower Owens River has been dry since 1913, when it was diverted to supply water to Los Angeles, 250 miles to the south. However, California’s 1970 Environmental Quality Act gave the county and environmental groups leverage to mount a legal challenge and eventually negotiate an out-of-court settlement, which requires the L.A. Department of Water and Power to restore a 62-mile stretch of the river. Plans for the project, finalized in 1997, include specific deadlines for implementation — but six years later, the city had met none of them.

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Los Angeles DWP's groundwater hopes may raise your water rates

Los Angeles city water and power commissioners have approved a new strategy to keep water flowing to homes and businesses and it takes shrinking supplies into account. I reported this story briefly this week, I've now had a little more time to check the full documentation of the strategy out (I didn't check the full document out fully, but at least I know there is one and I made a dent in it). 

The LA Department of Water and Power has to make an urban water management plan every five years – like every water utility in the state does. Since the last time the utility did this, state law added a requirement that the DWP cut water use per person by 20 percent within nine years. That's made these documents way more important – and made them good places to look at a utility's strategy for the future.

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Western water's wilder future in a changing climate

A federal law requires the Bureau of Reclamation to report on the future impacts a warming climate could have on Western water supplies. The goal? To clarify what we'll have to work with. Too bad the limits of our present knowledge smudge the predictions a little: I don't envy water managers.

Rec delivers water to 31 million people in 17 western states. A lot of 'em are in California. "Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change," said Mike Connor, a commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. A federal law - the SECURE Water Act - recognized that. “Water is the lifeblood of our communities, rural and urban economies, and our environment,” said Secretary Salazar, “and small changes in water supplies or the timing of precipitation can have a big impact on all of us. This report provides the foundation for understanding the long-term impacts of climate change on Western water supplies and will help us identify and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable water resource management.”

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Gradually, then suddenly: Oil and water in the Gulf of Mexico

I was listening to a segment my colleague Liane Hansen did - talking to Christopher D'Elia, from LSU's School for the Coast and the Environment. Liane used these words to introduce her conversation: disaster. Mind-boggling. Horror. Mesmerized. But maybe a minute and a half, 2 minutes in she said: "It could have been a lot worse."

Exactly.

We can't even decide, really, what to call the thing in our inevitable search to shorten it. BP? (But is it really all their fault?) Deepwater Horizon? (Better. But then where's BP?) Macondo, that'll work. (Oil guys love this one. It's all location.) MC252. (Clinical, clean; sounds like R2D2's cousin. I bet oil guys love that one too.)

Then: is it a spill? A disaster? A release? A rig explosion followed by a well failure? Navigating among these choices is tricky; balancing responsibility and description is a noble aim; words fail as we try to describe something that has happened and yet is still happening.

I'm not much of a Hemmingway woman, but The Sun Also Rises seems appropriate here. "How did you go bankrupt?" "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly."

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