Jane Velez-Mitchell and the Ballona Wetlands
Many who read the Argonaut’s exposé on former local TV news anchor and journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell (Argonaut, 3/25/21) will laud her activism on animal care and climate change issues. Her views and actions on the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project, however, are seriously misguided and grossly uninformed. As a journalist, “unchained” or not, she should know better than to ignore the facts. Her publicly stated views on Ballona at local meetings and events simply parrot decades of outright lies fabricated by other activists who are well-known opponents of the state’s restoration plan. Her advocacy will only serve to harm, not help, either nature or people at Ballona and should be soundly rejected.
The so-called “gentle” restoration alternative, now the rallying cry of Ms. Velez-Mitchell and her allies, was carefully evaluated and unequivocally rejected by the in-depth scientific and legal review performed through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Environmental Impact studies. This “gentle” approach was rejected because it does virtually nothing to undo and correct the extensive ecological damage inflicted upon Ballona by Marina del Rey’s construction and many other development infills over the past century.
The “gentle” alternative also does nothing to replace the obsolete, massive and tide-choking concrete Ballona Creek channel, which the Fish and Wildlife plan will replace with modern, vegetated flood control features. Neither does the “gentle” alternative protect lower Playa del Rey from the inevitable tidal flooding that will threaten that community as sea levels rise. The Fish and Wildlife plan resolves all of these problems.
The “gentle” plan cannot be practically implemented on the 200 acres of weed-infested state lands south of Fiji Way without employing heavy, mechanized earthmoving equipment – the same bulldozers hypocritically vilified by the opponents in their own criticisms of the Fish and Wildlife plan.
Lastly, the “gentle” approach violates the foundational California state laws that not only protect our coastline from development, but mandate that we reclaim and restore all former tidelands to maximum ecological productivity.
The recent fire in the southeastern Ballona Wetlands occurred in an area of “stranded” pickleweed marsh – stranded because for decades it has been cut off from the ocean’s tides by the concrete Ballona channel. Pickleweed is a virtually fireproof wetland plant that normally exists only in wetlands that enjoy the periodic tidal flushing required for its long-term survival. Having been denied the ocean’s salty and weed-suppressing tides at Ballona, the pickleweed marsh burned there because it has been gradually infested by flammable, dry-land weeds which spread and thickened with each winter’s rainfall.
The Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, one of only three listed endangered species in the Ballona, depends entirely on this pickleweed marsh for its life cycle. The Fish and Wildlife plan will, among many other good things, not only restore nourishing, weed-proofing tidal flows to those long-stranded pickleweed marsh areas, but will add another 70 acres of pickleweed. This new marsh and Belding’s habitat will replace the dry, weedy Marina construction fill south of Fiji Way that buried former pickleweed marsh a half century ago.
Incredibly, Ms. Velez-Mitchell’s allies are suing to stop the Fish and Wildlife project, claiming in their court filings the project will irreparably harm the Belding’s, when in fact it will do just the opposite. Similar successful pickleweed enhancements at countless other tidal restorations prove it.
It will take a few years for the proposed project to withstand these legal assaults. In the meantime, all in the community should get educated on the facts and truth about the Fish and Wildlife plan for Ballona, lest they be flimflammed by the fictional narratives of self-serving activists.
David W. Kay, D. Env
Please call natural disasters for what they really are: climate disasters. Scientists warned decades ago that climate change would cause more extreme and frequent adverse weather events. The fires in the west, the repeated hurricanes hitting our coasts, and the droughts across the country are not random occurrences – they are the direct result of global warming.
Scientific evidence that global warming has been caused by human activity is unequivocal. For hundreds of thousands of years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have never risen above 300 parts per million.
In the past 50 years, carbon dioxide levels have risen to above 400 parts per million at a rate of about 100 times faster than previous natural increases, including after the end of the last ice age. A global rise of over 2 degrees Celsius will cause massive destruction to life as we know it. It is time to cover the crisis correctly!