By Jane Velez-Mitchell and Marcia Hanscom

Activists led by Climate Reality Project leader Molly Basler, along with community members and animal welfare advocates.
Photo courtesy Nicole Charky

Those of us who live near the Ballona Wetlands see the egrets clustered in groups poking their beaks in the brook. We see the pelicans open their wings, as if in celebration of life itself… and we think: they have no idea. These innocent beings have no clue that powerful, monied interests want to destroy their home, 640 acres of wild land….the Ballona Wetlands, LA’s last remaining coastal wetlands.

This ill-conceived plan to spend $250 million dollars—public dollars—and a decade bulldozing our precious wetlands is a punch to the gut. These power brokers have the nerve to call this proposed obliteration a “restoration.” They conveniently fail to mention that this area is home to 1,700 species, from owls to skunks, from foxes to herons. They want to destroy the habitat of several endangered species, like Belding’s Savannah Sparrow! Killing is not conservation. Destruction is not restoration.

The Secret Agenda: Helping the Fossil Fuel Industry

With people distracted by the pandemic, fossil fuel operators quietly got permits to begin digging into the Ballona Wetlands to get a head start on this plan to excavate millions of cubic yards of soil and destroy crucial habitats. They were hoping nobody would notice…but we did.

Protests erupted! Critics pointed out that the so-called “restoration” would primarily benefit the fossil fuel industry, which wants to relocate and upgrade their little-known, crumbling gas storage facility under the wetlands. For that, you need bulldozers. Lots of ‘em.

Environmental activist Molly Basler tried to photograph this work from the public sidewalk. The gas company called police who converged around her. She was falsely accused of trespassing. This past week, Basler returned with community members, declaring that the public would not be intimidated by strong-arm tactics.

Danger of Floods, Leaks and Blowouts

State Sen. Ben Allen and LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn have told Gov. Newsom they’re worried about the dangers of this facility. The LA County Democratic Party and eight Westside democratic clubs have passed resolutions calling for this facility’s closure.

Still, the fossil fuel industry plows ahead. That, even though the Environmental Impact Report for this project has not received final approval. Potentially dangerous errors in the flood control planning have given the Army Corps of Engineers pause. City Councilman Mike Bonin has expressed alarm about the flood risk changes and called for shutting down the gas storage facility.

Provide Public Access to Nature Now

Supporters say Angelenos need more green space. We 100% agree! Right now, a huge gate to existing trails is locked! The gas industry holds the key. If this plan goes forward, 10-year-olds would be about 20 before they could visit. That’s madness.

Do gentle improvements and save these precious wetlands. Habitats around the world are going up in flames. Enough.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for nature-based solutions to climate change impacts and moving away from fossil fuels. He should withdraw this controversial project. Don’t bulldoze Ballona. Shut down the gas facility.

For details visit defendballonawetlands.org and tinyurl.com/ballonaphotos

Jane Velez-Mitchell, JaneUnChained.com founder, is a nationally known TV journalist and best-selling author. Winner of four Humane Society Genesis awards/commendations, Velez-Mitchell covers crimes against animals and the environment. Marcia Hanscom is an activist living in Playa del Rey who has worked for nearly 30 years to protect wetlands, coastal habitats and public access for all. She jumped into the struggle to save the Ballona Wetlands in 1995, started a coalition that grew from six to 106, and helped persuade Gov. Gray Davis to acquire more than 600 acres of land at Ballona in 2003.

Power to Speak is The Argonaut’s guest opinion column for community members to voice their views on local matters and does not represent an editorial position or endorsement by The Argonaut. The opinions, experiences, research and data analysis expressed in this article are the author’s own. Have a unique point of view on a neighborhood matter or a national issue with a local twist? Email
kkirk@timespublications.com.

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