Southern California environment news and trends

Forget NPR, Shearer, The Big Uneasy, me: Maria Garzino still wants answers

So Harry Shearer’s ticked off at NPR’s “censorship” of coverage for his film The Big Uneasy, and NPR’s Ombudsman rejects his claims. And the whole silly flap – on the NPR site, on twitter, on blogs – misses the point. Credible claims backed by evidence have been forwarded to President Obama – claims that show New Orleans may be in danger of repeating past mistakes because its protection against hazard has been misrepresented. Engineer and whistleblower Maria Garzino deserves a real answer for the trouble she’s been through.

Like Shearer, I, too, was disappointed that NPR didn’t cover New Orleans with greater depth during this last Katrinaversary. Unlike Shearer, and unlike NPR, I spent 2 and a half years submitting nearly 50 Freedom of Information Act Requests to the Corps at various branches, to the F.B.I, to the Environmental Protection Agency. The result was an investigation that aired in four parts last year on Southern California Public Radio, where I work.


Slow the flow, act like a sponge

You could call it "low impact development" or "green infrastructure" or any number of other things. But I like what the State Water Resources Control Board has done with the imagery: they've got a new video explaining how to make your landscape act more like a sponge.

Low impact development is rolling into the permitting process at the water board in a bunch of ways, at the state and watershed/county level. We did some stories on it earlier this month - you can hear about how Ventura county could see green infrastructure cutting its stormwater pollution with a new set of rules from the regional water board. Or you could check out the effort to put green streets on the map in Los Angeles.


DWP Cafeteria in the John Ferraro building now closed to the public [UPDATED]

It's been a favorite of jury pool members, people on the Chowhound board, and journalists looking for an affordable lunch, but now all those people are shut out. The cafeteria downstairs in the John Ferraro building - DWP's big iconic heaquarters on Hope Street - is no longer for you. (Okay, me.)

A sign near the entrance to the building says this has been true as of August 30, 2010. But none of the security guards or anyone else I ran into knew why. I've got calls in to the DWP's media relations folks, so I'll update you.

I will say it seems weird to close down a cafeteria in a public building to public access. I mean, the U.S. Senate lets the public eat in its cafeteria, as does the House of Representatives. Locally, we have The Gas Company's cafeteria. Until it went out of business, you could rub elbows with city hall staffers at the snack bar there. Anyone know what gives? Any jurors (rural or otherwise) run into this problem yet?


Bakersfield & the Bidarts: art, and science

When seismologist Lisa Grant Ludwig first told me she worked on a patch of land in the Carrizo Plain called the Bidart Fan, I said, you mean like Frank Bidart? Having poets for siblings has, once again, enabled me to get a good view of the intersection of two specialities.

Which is cool.

Lisa Grant Ludwig told me when I visited with her on the Carrizo Plain that she has been drawn to this plain of land for 20 years as a scientist. Frank Bidart has realized the search be began as a boy, to be an artist, by leaving it. And I'm struck, as I sometimes am, by the rough beauty of what California helps make possible in art and science.

It struck me, too, that Frank Bidart's not in any way a poet of place - he doesn't write about Bakersfield's landscape, the land where he grew up. But even by keeping that place in his rearview mirror he's shaped by it.


Pong, Pong, Pong... beep. Game over?

No clearer example of the decayed and decaying relationship between the Department of Water and Power and the L.A. City Council exists than the Pong-like battle over watering rules in the city of Los Angeles.

It's become like Pong because it's just outright boring. (If you never played Pong, it's like Activision Decathalon, when you would have to just shake the joystick back and forth for about 15 minutes to run a marathon. If you don't know what either of those two things are, well, you're not a Gen X-er who had an Atari 2600, and you probably never read the Sears catalog like a novel either.) So maybe another metaphor for it is this: imagine two people straightening a picture hanging on a wall. The first time it went on the wall, it pulled out some plaster; they were using the wrong hook in the wrong place. But now that it's secure on the wall, they're each nudging one corner, one on the left, one on the right, each saying saying his way is straighter.