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VIDEO: Army Corps Will Work With Community on Sepulveda Dam Vegetation Plan

At a hearing Tuesday, the corps' top commander makes this pledge under the pressure of a possible city council motion.

 

The mid-December clearing of 43 acres of the Sepulveda Basin Wildife Reserve by Army Corps engineers ruined the Christmas holiday for many.

Members of the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society first discovered the devastation on an annual bird count on Dec. 22 and posted an intem about it on its website.

"This week the United States Army Corps of Engineers laid waste to the South Wildlife Reserve in the Sepulveda Basin," the item said.

"What has taken nature 30 years to develop has been destroyed in one week by a mechanized blitzkrieg assault by the Corps."

Soon the issue was elevated with state lawmakers like Kevin DeLeon calling for a report on how the devastation had happened.

The Army Corp countered saying it was simply implementing a five-year Vegetation Management Plan to repopulate the area with native species.

That report is due in mid-February.

On Tuesday, the City Council's Ad Hoc Committee on the Los Angeles River considered a similar motion, introduced by Paul Krekorian for Council District 9's Jan Perry.

(See it in the above media gallery.)

It would require the city's Bureau of Sanitation and Planning Department to work with a variety of groups to prepare a report to explain the incident and its possible impact on endangered species.

Action on the motion was continued until Feb. 25, but Col. Mark Toy, 59th Commander of the Los Angeles District, attended the hearing Tuesday to explain the intent of the vegetation clearing and how the the corps would work with the community going forward.

A graduate of Los Alamitos High in the San Gabriel Valley, Toy was contrite and apologized for his own absence during the period right after what many felt was an unannounced action.

Toy pledged to personally conduct a tur of the area on Feb. 12 with members of the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society and the Encino Neighborhood Council.

(See a clip from Toy in the above gallery.)

He also said that there would be meetings with community members especially around the issue of what to replant in the affected area, where volunteers--in addition to the Army--had planted many species over the years.

Toy even suggested that there might be a special "pilot" area to test which plantings would work the best.

Ad Hoc River Committee chair Ed Reyes asked for an update from the Corps at the committee's next meeting, Feb. 25.

The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society and other local environmentalists want mitigations for environmental damage, remuneration for damages, clarification of their master plan for the basin, and  improved in communication with local representatives

Community members, including leadership from the Audubon Society members and the Encino Neighborhood Council, came to speak at the meeting Tuesday.

Afterwards, Debra George said she liked that the Corps had pledged to work more closely with the community in communicating about its vegetation management plan.

But she and others, including Glenn Bailey, chair of the Encino Neighborhood Council, noted the profound impact that the 43 acre clearing had had on wildlife in the area and wondered if it could ever be mitigated.

(See a clip from George in the above gallery.)

Elaine Sabih January 30, 2013 at 06:49 PM
This is why the government is out of money. It is a total waste of resources to tear up already advanced growth plantings in order to replant native plantings. The basin was beautiful. Now we must wait five years to see green again. If they want to tear out non native plants, why not palm trees, and date palms, etc. That would make just as much sense. I am totally sick about what they did.
JoAnn Freedman January 30, 2013 at 07:15 PM
I cannot believe they just went ahead and did this! It was fine the way it was. The environment has taken a huge "hit" on this. I don't understand what their motivation was? Why?
Char Bransky February 01, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Kinda shows the wide gap that can exist between "theory" and "practice'. What sounds commendable and prudent on paper can look devastating in the real world. Encouraging the planting of native species is wonderful concept. Clear cutting 43 acres of established wildlife habitat to achieve it is not so wonderful. Here's hoping in future plans on paper get more than a rubber stamp approval BEFORE being made into reality..

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