More Money for Beaches and Wetlands

Posted June 15, 2016 by The Argonaut in News

Congressman wants to make Ballona and the coastline eligible for National Park Service funding

Standing on the edge of the Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey, Rep. Ted Lieu makes the case that L.A.’s coastline should become part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Standing on the edge of the Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey, Rep. Ted Lieu makes the case that L.A.’s coastline should become part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

By Gary Walker

The Ballona Wetlands, Ballona Creek and local beaches could become eligible for an infusion of federal funds under new legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Lieu (D- Torrance), who represents the area.

Lieu’s bill calls for a congressional study to facilitate incorporating the wetlands and 35 miles of coastline — Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Venice and Santa Monica included — into the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

A hodgepodge of open space preserves and parks from Malibu to southeastern Ventura County, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is under the administration of the National Park Service, which coordinates with state and county agencies.

Federal funding, if approved, could be used for maintenance and improvement projects but not day-to-day operations, Lieu said.

That could mean a lot for the state’s long-delayed plans to restore the Ballona Wetlands.

“In the long term, bringing the Ballona Wetlands into the recreation area would help draw down additional federal funds and resources that could be used for trails, maintenance and various projects,” Lieu said.

Completion of an environmental study needed to begin wetlands restoration has been delayed time and time again over several years, but representatives of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife say the study is on track to be completed this summer.

An infusion of new funding could have a big impact on the scope of restoration work, considering the loss of a $50-million pledge from the Annenberg Foundation after local environmental groups opposed its plan for a visitor center and animal care facility within the footprint of the ecological reserve.

But state officials aren’t sure how Lieu’s bill would affect plans for the wetlands.

“As part of the study, the Secretary of the Interior would consult with federal, state, county and local governments, as well as private parties. Until we engage in those consultations, it is difficult to determine what effects there will be from including the Ballona Wetlands into the National Recreation Area,” state Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said.

Even if the wetlands receive federal funding to offset restoration costs (and related federal oversight of how those funds would be used), the 600-acre state preserve would remain firmly in the hands of the state, Lieu said.

“This is not a proposal for a national park,” he said.

Rather, the national recreation area designation would be about lowering jurisdictional barriers that no longer make sense.

“The beauty of Southern California and the natural resources that we have are amazing. When they were created, there really were no boundaries as there are now. Those are artificial constructs,” Lieu said. “There’s no reason not to expand these areas.”

Bay Foundation Executive Director Tom Ford said he’s intrigued by the possibility of a national recreation area designation for local wetlands and beaches.

“It recognizes the beauty of protecting our wildlife and native species. And I like the concept that we need to connect and coordinate these organizations within the national recreation area,” said Ford, whose agency has been assisting the state in its preliminary restoration efforts.

Former Friends of the Ballona Wetlands President David Kay thinks it makes sense to bring the area’s natural resources under the federal umbrella.

“I’m glad to see [Lieu] include the Ballona Wetlands in the study. I would hope down the road that if it is incorporated into the national recreation area, it would include things like access trails and signage for visitors to the wetlands,” Kay said.

The study requested by Lieu’s bill would be expected to take at least three years, and additional legislation would be necessary to finalize the national recreation area designation.

Editor’s note: The stated total area of the Ballona Wetlands has been corrected to 600 acres.



    Always great to see the Ballona Wetlands getting attention from federal officials, and possibly more funding. However, some factual inaccuracies in this article should be corrected:

    – The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is roughly 600 acres, not 360 acres as the article states.

    – The $50 million dollars pledged by the Annenberg Foundation was not for restoration activities, as the article implies, but primarily for the construction of the visitor/pet adoption center described in the article. The Annenberg Foundation’s construction proposal was criticized by numerous editorial boards, elected officials (including Rep. Ted Lieu), and environmental groups (such as five different Audubon Society Chapters, Endangered Habitats League and others). Notably, however, it was actively promoted by several of the organizations chosen to provide quotes for this article.

    – The Bay Foundation is not an agency, as implied in the article, but rather a non-profit entity whose employees also happen to run the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC), which is a state agency.

    Let’s hope that this precious natural resource is indeed included in the national recreation area designation.

    Walter Lamb
    Ballona Wetlands Land Trust

    John Davis

    First, Congressman Leiu and Congresswoman Waters must address the failure of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to comply with U.S. Public Law 780, the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1954. The Congress set forth the provisions of the Act as it applied to Marina del Rey. The extent of the project was from Washington Street to the North, to West 24th Street to the South and all lands, easements, and rights of way from Highway One, Lincoln Blvd. to the East to the Pacific Ocean.

    The USACE Los Angles District disregarded the law and produce Design Memorandum No. 1 for the project, which wiped out the Congressional provisions, without permission. There were no public hearings, no notification to the public, and no approval to completely change the project by the Congress.

    In 1994 the Congress asked the Secretary of the Army to respond to House Document 389, as to any recommended changes to the Project. The Secretary disregarded this matter, and claimed it allowed the Corp to actually conduct changes, which is not the case. The Corp spent over 2 million dollars of public money for that purpose then shut it down in favor of a project that would never report back to Congress on recommended changes, or to inform the Congress that the project it approved, at rates reasonable with access for all, had already been changed to commercial, illegally.

    Congresspersons Leiu and Waters have been informed of this matter, over a year before, but
    continue to ignore the responsibility under U.S. law to maintain the provisions of the Project as Congress approved. This is simply another layer to cover a major crime against the people of the United States and is shameful, to say the least.

    John Davis

    John Davis

    My prior comment should have read West 84th Street, not West 24th Street.

    John Davis

Leave a Reply