Four years after the passage of Proposition O, the first fully- funded water bond project in Los Angeles is being installed in the Venice area.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, flanked by water conservation activists and city employees, held a press conference at the corner of Rialto Avenue and Alhambra Court to announce the installation of seven tree wells that will be created as part of the implementation of the water bond.

“It’s a great day for Venice,” the councilman told the audience of approximately 50 observers at the press conference.

The Grand Boulevard Tree Wells Project will involve installing seven bioretention filtration systems in various locations throughout Venice. Stormwater overflow will be diverted to the tree wells for treatment before entering the storm drain system.

Previously, refuse, including dirt and bacteria, would enter the the storm drain system and then the ocean practically unfiltered.

Each biofiltration system will center on a magnolia tree.

“What’s great about this is that the unit will be underground, so [the public] won’t see it,” Los Angeles city engineer Gary Moore explained.

The water will come down the street into the unit, which will filter out the pollutants and bacteria before it enters the bay.

“Now, we’re going to have the trees, the root systems and the dirt that will take this water and clean it and filter and put it into the ocean or the aquifer this time,” said Rosendahl.

Proposition O was a municipal ballot initiative approved by Los Angeles voters in 2004. It authorizes the Los Angeles city government to issue a series of general obligation bonds for up to $500 million for projects to protect public health by cleaning up pollution, including bacteria and trash, in the city’s watercourses, beaches and the ocean, in order to meet Federal Clean Water Act requirements.

In addition, the measure will fund improvements to protect water quality, provide flood protection, and increase water conservation, habitat protection, and open space.

“This project helps us meet our water quality standards and comply with the law,” said Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. “When this project is completed, runoff from this area will be cleaned up, pollution that would usually go to the ocean and the beaches will be treated, and we will create a green environment around us.”

Paula Daniels, who is on the Public Works Commission, discussed the teamwork that allowed the project to come to fruition.

“At a time when a lot of things were being voted down, about 70 percent of the population voted for Prop. O,” Daniels, a former board member of Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, pointed out. “It shows how much people here care about water quality and how great it was to have this happen in the spirit of collaboration with the citizens of Los Angeles, the environmental groups, the councilman’s office and the city.”

Rosendahl praised the role of the public in getting the proposition passed and its participation in the implementation of the Venice water filtration units.

“The best part about Prop. O was the citizen oversight committee,” he said.

The requirement for formation of that citizen board was crucial in the passage of the measure, particularly due to a segment of the public’s distrust of its political leaders, said Rosendahl.

“The public does not trust elected officials, nor do they trust that when they vote for something that it’s going to get done,” the councilman told The Argonaut after the press conference, noting that gasoline sales tax revenue that had been earmarked for mass transportation initiatives had been taken way by the State Legislature to offset the state budget deficit. “And the genius of Prop. O was the creation of a citizens oversight committee, and on this committee where the true environmentalist who have the true passion for this, many who have spent their whole lifetimes involved in these wonderful causes.”

Rosendahl believes that by placing representatives of these organizations on the committee, the water bond initiative was infused with credibility to the electorate.

“The trust and credibility of this endeavor was actually validated with the inclusion of the citizens oversight committee,” he asserted.

Several environmental and conservation organizations also attended the groundbreaking, including Heal the Bay, the Ballona Wetlands Institute in Playa del Rey and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Committee.

Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Ballona Institute, said that the Proposition O project was a good first step in moving toward better water conservation methods.

“We’re very excited that this particular project is going to be working more collaboratively with Mother Nature and not just an engineering solution,” said Hanscom.

Hanscom said that she would like to see more native plants be part of the project. “Willows or some other kind of native tree would be nice, not some magnolia from the South,” said the Ballona Institute director.

Mark Gold, the executive director of Heal the Bay, had not returned calls for comment on the project at Argonaut press time.

Rosendahl said Venice was the perfect place to install the first project fully funded by Proposition O.

“It’s Venice, and we know that Venice always has great vibes,” the councilman, a former Venice resident, said. “There’s always been sensitivity to the environment.

“I say to my Venetians, we’re moving in the right direction, this is the respecting of Mother Nature and an opportunity to show that we can take [nature] to its rightful place and give it the support that it needs.”