Southern California environment news and trends

Tom Graff, Water Guy

AN UPDATE: The New York Times gave Mr. Graff his due with a very nice obituary Sunday. I wish I had know about his free-throw scorekeeping.

All this talk this week and last and for all I know the next year or so about the state's water plans. And I'm very saddened to read that Tom Graff has died.

Unless you're somehow involved in California water, you don't know him. But I first heard of him in law school, when I studied the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. His name was all over the place in accounts of it - he helped get it passed. The act, shepherded by George Miller in Congress, required that the federal Bureau of Reclamation do a better job accounting for water in the Delta, so as to protect wildlife and fisheries. It came up with an accounting system for water used there, and Tom Graff explained that to me, patiently.


No, wait, for real: South Coast MPAs almost a reality

I'll have more about this later, but in the meantime, I wanted to mention that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in at the last minute on this process - I guess that delay by the blue ribbon task force helped him. You can read his letter to the task force here.

They had some shoving and shouting here earlier, but considering the length of time this has been going on, and the differences in opinion, not much. I'll have more after the vote, which is imminent.


Clean water in the 'Bu

Public comment continues here in the Metropolitan Water District's board room, where the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board is holding its meeting because of the overwhelming interest in the topic of a septic tank moratorium in areas affecting the Malibu Creek watershed, Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach.

It's very polite - a byproduct of the impressive upscale serious locale? - but the divide is clear. Since I've been here we've heard from some longtime residents who say:
1 - septic is doing fine, and only may need updating in some places
2 - lots of other sources may be causing pollution & bacteria - relatedly -
3 - the science doesn't presently support tracing the problem to septic tanks
4 - updating to a treatment plant/sewage system would cost a lot and they shouldn't pay for it, especially now that we're in a financial apocalypse.


State Bond Spurs Surface Water Storage

I listened to NRDC's Barry Nelson and others on Larry Mantle's show Wednesday morning - and I almost pulled off the road when I heard Nelson say that he had been working on policy stuff, not the bond stuff, so he didn't know much about some of the bond issues - including Temperance Flat.

One reason I almost pulled off the road is that 6 years ago, when Nelson schooled me, a young reporter at KQED, patiently and in detail, in our state's water policy follies, Temperance Flat was very much a live issue. By which I mean: perchance he knows more than he thinks.

The other is Temperance Flat. I left California for a little while after I covered water issues on the San Joaquin River. When I came back I was gobsmacked to hear Temperance Flat again. How does this project turn up like a bad penny every time?


Building a green LA for everyone

When I lived in San Francisco I played softball in an architects, builders and contractors league. For a bunch of architects we were pretty good. The experience definitely demystified architects for me - they drank beer and wanted to win just like builders do - but maybe not architecture itself, a topic that few cover well, and not on public radio.

So it's with trepidation and fascination I approached these issues of green building.

Katie Swenson, one of the people I talked to for the story that aired today, actually directs the Rose Fellowship - she used to be a fellow herself. Her work was in Charlottesville. She wrote a book - Growing Urban Habitats - that describes the Urban Habitats 2005 competition, where Charlottesville designers sought plans for multifamily housing that prevent gentrification. The design - or re-design - target is housing court in the Hogwaller-Belmont part of Charlottesville.