Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

LADWP talking about Elysian Reservoir's Rubber-Mat Roof

Black plastic balls are a stopgap measure. LADWP is deciding on a long-term solution at Elysian Reservoir.
Black plastic balls are a stopgap measure. LADWP is deciding on a long-term solution at Elysian Reservoir.

As we report elsewhere, the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners decided to send forward a special “water quality adjustment factor” rate increase for customers. The biggest and shiniest fireworks over that factor-rate-increase will come at the City Council hearing, the one that has to happen for the bumped-up bill to happen. But the DWP board DID get a little taste of flaring tensions over the Elysian Reservoir, and the idea of a park there, from its champions.

The Department of Water and Power has been talking, on and off, about burying the Elysian Reservoir and turning the above-ground part into a park since the 1980s, from what I can tell.  Elysian Park neighbors and regional advocates want parkland; they want something visibly beautiful, something kind of like what Rowena Reservoir neighbors got a few years back.  

DWP has looked into that, as one of three options for Elysian Reservoir. As the economy has tanked, that idea seems to have lost momentum, and perspectives like Jack Humphreville's at CityWatchLA have gotten traction. Humphreville describes the three project possibilities: a covered or buried reservoir, a solid aluminum cover, and a floating plastic-rubber-synthetic-kinda cover. And he doesn't like the buried-parkland one that the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park does. 

All three alternatives meet the necessary environmental requirements, although the Buried Reservoir alternative will generate significantly more Greenhouse Gas, air quality issues, and noise during its 5.5 years of construction. […]

The major difference is that the Buried Reservoir achieves the “secondary” objective of providing an additional 12 acres of recreation area in the 575 acre Elysian Park.  

But the cost of $85 million, or over $7 million an acre, a price that rivals the highest prices in the City, is not the responsibility of Ratepayers, especially when Ratepayers are about to get slammed with the triple whammy of multiyear increases in water, power, and sewer rates.  

Lately, it seems like buried reservoir sympathies are getting unearthed. The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Reservoir seems to have kept up the drumbeat, even making it louder lately.  From the pages of Jenny Burman's Chicken Corner, to my colleague Eric Richardson's BlogDowntown, Angelenos have been writing about the value of maintaining natural beauty in Elysian Park (something that they think a rubber mat over the top of the reservoir maybe isn't helpful for): 

Somehow Downtown doesn't get cited as a neighboring community, but I think this is a fight we need to be involved in as well. Every time I go up into the park I marvel at how such a natural setting can be found just a few miles from the urbanity of Downtown LA. The ride around the reservoir and up to Point Grandview is an important part of that.

DWP didn't take up this issue specifically at the hearing Tuesday; instead, commissioners and the GM talked about how the utility needs more revenue in order to borrow money so that they can make water quality improvements they're supposed to under law. A specific agenda item about Elysian Reservoir had earlier been kicked down the road a little. Still, the Citizens' Committee aimed to make its presence known to the DWP board; the point is, they haven't gone away.