Southern California environment news and trends

The stupidity of managing marine invasive species

Southern California Caulerpa Action Team

California's got nine species of Caulerpa designated enemies of the state: marine invasives likely brought into coastal waters by the aquarium trade.

I tuned in to Madeleine's show about 25 minutes in today, so I caught the tail end of the divine Miss Brand and Pat Krug talking about lionfish in the Caribbean

The conversation spun into a larger talk about marine invasive species. KPCC has covered those issues here in southern California: a few years ago, we did some stories about the mountain yellow legged frog, about controversies around fish stocking, and about ballast water-driven marine invasions

As is his way, Pat Krug called, uh, just about everybody, "incredibly stupid" in terms of their approach to marine invasive. At one point, Madeleine said, "I can't believe there aren't any rules governing that by now." 

There are...sort of. California does have an invasive species plan. It's never gotten a lot of money. Mostly, California throws what money it does have at preventative measures; telling people not to dump aquariums in lagoons and coastal waters, that sort of thing. Nationally, we're still working on turning voluntary ballast water logs into mandatory requirements. Internationally, 74 countries were present 7 years ago when someone made a plan for international ballast water standards. There's still not enough signatories to the plan for it to take effect. The United States has not ratified the plan - though different groups like the American Alliance of Port Authorities are recommending that the U.S. do. What that leaves is a bunch of voluntary accords - aspirational statements about how we mean to handle things, or what would be a good procedure for neutralizing potential harm from ballast water if it were required.  


Song of the week: "A plastic bag in the wind" (self-explanatory)


A single-use bag ban is again alive in Los Angeles. Yesterday the Board of Public Works, by a four to nothing vote, sent the idea forward for the city of LA.

Plastic bag manufacturers object, vociferously. Here's what one told the board, as reported by Rick Orlov in the Daily News:

"A ban is not the right answer," said Kathy Brown, general manager of Crown Poly in Vernon. "Consumers have the right to make choices and the government is there to help educate them. The choice should be left to the consumers." 

At the same time, the list of places that have already enacted a ban has grown: unincorporated L.A. county, Calabasas, Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach; San Francisco, Marin, Oakland, up north. Pasadena, our hometown here at the Raymond Street fortress, is considering one. They're growing in popularity as people are seeing bags out in nature, weathering where you wouldn't necessarily expect them to. I saw ancient ones on my recent LA River paddling 'venture.


Is our city tap water safe to drink?

Yesterday, we reported that some of our neighbors in Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino Counties and east Los Angeles County were experiencing “musty” tap water. Due to an algae bloom in the State Water Project. Officials assured customers that the water was safe to drink after being treated with copper sulfate, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as safe at less than 1 parts per million. But what exactly does this mean?

We contacted Bob Muir, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “There is nothing wrong with the health and safety of the water,” Muir shared with Pacific Swell. “Algae blooms are not dangerous. It’s an aesthetic issue and we’re simply treating the water so people will drink it.” And it’s a rather large algae bloom. Muir says that local water agencies are still receiving calls about the taste of the water, and that the issue will take a couple weeks to work through the system.


Old-timey movies tell half the story about LA's water

LADWP's 1931 film "Romance of Water" told LA what it wanted to hear about the infrastructure that helped it grow.

Alex Cohen talked to film curator Scott Simmon this week, a conversation about the preservation of rare old timey movies about the west. Clara Bow ("Mantrap") was great and all, but what I loved about it were, of course, the ones about water. (Infrastructure!)

I never want to forget how we got here. And by we, I mean the white men who established the infrastructure for "Loss Angle-eez" (that's how they say it in the old movies) and by here, I mean, a dry basin we've made into a megalopolis. 

The language in the LADWP film and in the Hearst Newsreel is incredible. It describes chilly eastern Sierra mountains serving up water while "people three hundred miles away are basking in a semi tropical winter sun…" The great mountain lakes of the Mammoth area are "a fishermen's paradise where man may forsake the cares of the world among the grandeur and peace of nature." We have, in this imagination, "…a never ending water supply." The water was "wasted" in the Owens salt lake, until the "enterprise" of man harnessed it for the "benefit" of the city of the angels. 


From the LADWP board meeting, an update on once-through cooling

LADWP's Scattergood Power Plant.

Well, 2029 is the year.  

Earlier I wondered whether the DWP was planning to look for more time to end its practice of once-through cooling, using sea water to cool equipment at coastal power plants. The utility's already gotten 9 years past the initial end date for the practice, after a hearing in July at the state water resources control board. I wondered whether DWP was going to use the next meeting of the water board's independent experts on energy and infrastructure, SACCWIS, to push for more time. It seems I misunderstood. 

LADWP chief Ron Nichols says clearly that the DWP is doing 2029 - period. "That is our plan, that is our schedule, and that's what we're moving forward on is that."

You can listen to the discussion of the entire agenda item here. Nichols makes his statement about 3 minutes in, in response to a specific question.