Southern California environment news and trends

Rollin' out the barrels, checkin' on the cistern

LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office has been working with Mar Vista residents to demonstrate a rain barrel project. They’re rolling out the barrels now. (ha!) I plan to go check them out. I was reminded that back in winter, I went up the hill to TreePeople’s village of yurts atop Mulholland to talk to Andy Lipkis and Jim Hardie about the group’s demonstration cistern.

Jim Hardie went down into the cistern for me. Not very far, though – at the time, it was full to the brim: 8 feet deep, 70 feet across, 216,000 gallons of water from the sky. TreePeople thought it would be enough water for the rest of the year.

So I figured I’d check back with TreePeople for an update. Turns out that between mid-February and mid-July, they used just under half the water in that cistern for their climate-adaptive landscape: 46 inches, almost 4 feet, so at 2250 gallons an inch, that’s 103,500 gallons. Keep your fingers crossed for them – they’ll probably need a wet winter to get through 2009.


Aquatic invaders! (Personally, I prefer hitchhikers. It's nicer.)

The LA Times today reports on a proliferation of Asian clams in Lake Tahoe. The clams have been around for seven years, at least; it's in the last couple that they're really taking off. Some scientists fear they will make the lake more hospitable to other invasives, like the quagga and zebra mussels that are all over the Great Lakes, much of the west, and even in the Colorado River system.

A couple of years ago, I did a three part series on aquatic invasive species in southern California.

Here's one of our invaders:

Quagga mussels sampled from Metropolitan Water District facility near the California-Nevada border. Full grown, they'll be thumbnail size; at this point, they're like really swollen poppy seeds. MWD reports success with its efforts to control quaggas. But their spread remains a concern. I was in the eastern Sierra several times so far this year, and saw inspection stations for quaggas, and boats with inspection stickers as the state now requires. Still, all it takes is one pair of waders, one boat, one person. In the sea, one piece of plastic trash that cut loose from the gyre and lands where it didn't come from.


The mayor's coal goals

You may have seen this poster around town lately - I first noticed it on a fence at Second and Beaudry, near KPCC's offices.

It's referring to a goal Mayor Villaraigosa laid out at his second swearing-in, just a little way back. Villaraigosa announced his intention to eliminate coal from the city of LA's power portfolio by 2020. The move won him accolades from the Sierra Club, and international attention. As for this poster, you have to get close, but if you look down in a corner, you see who paid for it:

REAP is the Renewable Energy Accountability Project, formed by Prop 7 backer Jim Gonzalez.

According to the REAP website, Principal Emeritus for REAP is S. David Freeman, who currently serves the city of Los Angeles as the deputy mayor for energy and the environment. In other words, one of the guys who's helping guide the city of Los Angeles to make the decisions for which the mayor is being congratulated.