The Ballona Wetlands Land Trust held a webinar on fixing current restoration plans

By Holly Jenvey

Disagreement over restoring the Ballona Wetlands still remains high. Walter Lamb, president of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, recently held a webinar to discuss why the current restoration plans are inadequate.

The Land Trust disagrees with the assertions of organizations such as Friends of Ballona Wetlands, as they aren’t supported by available facts. Lamb based his talking points around Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order made on October 7, 2020, of protecting biodiversity and an announcement phasing out fossil fuels from September 23, 2020.

Topics included protecting coastal resources against sea level rise, biodiversity, equitable access to natural resources, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Lamb explained how the Land Trust can put forward the changes against the deficiencies of the restoration plans.

Aside from addressing these issues, Lamb discussed how these problems can be solved. He showed parts of the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Report in making his claims. Note that project plans aren’t final until the Environmental Impact statement is finalized along with receiving necessary permits and resolved litigation.

“We are absolutely going to need help from as many people in the community as possible,” Lamb said about drafting a final Environmental Impact Report.
Rising sea levels

Lamb presented diagrams of rising sea levels and how they will affect the Ballona Wetlands from now to the year 2100. The figures on page 271 to 275 of the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Report show how sea level rises will affect species’ habitats within given time periods. He explained how the marsh habitats will be decreasing over the years because of the sea level rising.

Lamb also presented page 850 of the report, which explains how California should be advised with how much waters will surge.

“The resolution advises California state agencies to consider 10 to 17 inches of sea level rise by 2050 and 31 to 69 inches by 2100,” the report read.
Lamb said that the current projections are at the highest ends of the ranges. He also explained that thin-layer sediment augmentation is a way to raise the elevation of marsh habitat to keep in pace with sea level rising. It’s a potential mitigation against of losing species and habitats.

The augmentation is also a potential alternative to knocking down the levees, which would reduce the released greenhouse gases and the cost of removal.

Protecting biodiversity

Lamb explained the process behind bringing back species to the Wetlands. One of the proposed species that restoration organizations are looking to bring back as a breeding species is the Ridgway’s rail even as the plans behind it aren’t concrete. Lamb explained that the habitat the Ridgway’s rail resides in is cordgrass, which was never found at the Wetlands.

“There’s nothing in the EIR that says anything other than we might reintroduce cordgrass and so we might get Ridgway’s rail, that’s about the extent of the analysis,” Lamb said.

Lamb also explained the issues around the construction of the West Area B Levee, which page 193 of the Draft Environmental Impact Report explains is to replace the existing south Ballona Creek Channel Levee and give flood risk protection for Culver Boulevard and the areas south and west.

“The West Area B Levee is slated to be constructed on top of an existing tidal slough, which provides one of the most iconic views of the wetlands, and would permanently destroy existing habitat for Belding’s Savannah sparrow and other marsh species,” Lamb said.

Equitable access to natural resources

Lamb tied this element with social and environmental justice as there needs to be more diverse representation working with the environment. It also means giving people more access to the Wetlands.

However, he said that the organizations that are in favor of restoring the Wetlands are opposing access with factually unsupported justifications by claiming reasonable access areas to the north of Ballona Creek would pose safety risks, even though a Little League has been permitted to operate within the ecological reserve.