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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Bulldozing parts of Ballona is no way to restore the wetlands

Ballona Wetlands
A view of Ballona Lagoon in Marina del Rey.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: In welcoming bulldozers to the Ballona Wetlands, Jon Christensen prioritizes recreation and economic benefit for our human species, while downplaying the damage to what remains of the natural ecosystem.

Massive reconfiguration of the human-degraded landscape might yield bicycle paths, but would that be “restoration”? Or should we pursue the less intrusive path toward wetlands recovery, “just add water”?

Serious decisions must be made about the recently released environmental impact report for the state’s Ballona Wetlands restoration project, and it’s a mistake to dismiss dissident voices.

Kevin McKeown, Santa Monica

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The writer is mayor of Santa Monica and serves on the state’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

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To the editor: The Ballona Wetlands Land Trust will almost certainly challenge the state’s restoration plan in court because we believe that substantial evidence supports our concern that the project, as designed, could wreak havoc on existing wildlife habitat.

I hope to maintain a mutual respect with Christensen. That said, his astonishingly simplistic take on the complex issue of the Ballona Wetlands restoration plan reflects a very superficial understanding of the project and its potential impacts. His depiction of stakeholder advocacy as “bickering” is both insulting and uninformed.

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As I have personally explained to Christensen, the state developed and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an early access plan that included benches, signage, bike racks and other features that for years have sat unused behind locked gates. The issue of ecologically sensitive access has been improperly tied to the large restoration project. Christensen should join our efforts to open those gates for managed access to conduct stewardship and education activities for kids from underserved communities.

Christensen’s suggestion that we should just allow the project to move forward and only challenge it if we observe damage after the fact is profoundly bad advice. The California Environmental Quality Act is the mechanism by which public stakeholders can challenge the inadequacy of projects, and we will follow that process.

Walter Lamb, Culver City

The writer is president of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust.

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To the editor: Of the thousands of people who drive through the Ballona Wetlands each day on Lincoln Boulevard, I would surmise few care about benthic invertebrate diversity, marsh vole habitat or other details that environmentalists obsess over. What most Angelenos want to know is that on Sunday morning, they can safely enjoy the peace and quiet of natural open space.

As Christensen notes, the state’s project will give us all of that, and much more.

Creating this ecological and recreational jewel is possible only through excavation and regrading, the only feasible means to dig out and relocate 3 million cubic yards of dirt dumped on Ballona during Marina del Rey’s construction. These earthmoving methods were used successfully to undo similar damage at habitat restorations along our coast.

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Bulldozers are a convenient villain for project opponents, but bulldozers created the marina and the damage in its wake, so we must use them again to “unfill” what were once productive wetlands.

We taxpayers overwhelmingly approved billions of bond dollars to fund wetland, wildland and park projects over the past two decades, yet many of our elected representatives remain silent about the Ballona project. Absent leadership from the folks we hired for that job, I guess we’ll just have to do this ourselves.

David W. Kay, Playa Vista

The writer was board president of Friends of Ballona Wetlands from 2012-13. He managed the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project near Del Mar.


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