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Thanks for your interest in the City of LA's Team Effort! Together, we are all working towards cleaner neighborhoods and beaches.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Transforming F’s to A’s – One Beach at a Time

Ah, summertime. A season filled with warm balmy nights, backyard barbecues, Little League games, and weekend trips to the beach. Each of us has favorite summer memories, and I’d venture to guess that those recollections involve a beach, river or lake – we just naturally gravitate towards water during hot months. We’ve all enjoyed that morning bike ride along Santa Monica Bay, been mesmerized by the festive sights of Echo Park Lake’s Lotus Festival, watched the kids splash in the waves at Dockweiler Beach or explored Cabrillo’s tide pools.

So what better way to say thank you to the places that have been so memorable than by creating a new summer tradition that gives back. Make the pledge, like some Sanitation employees already have, to participate in one clean-up event this summer to keep those special places clean for generations to come. It’s easy to do. There are clean-up events happening year round here in Southern California. A few hours of your time can make a positive impact on those beaches, lakes and rivers we love.

In this issue of LA Stormwater, we focus on the beaches that are so much a part of LA life this time of year. Just before Memorial Day, Heal the Bay published its annual Beach Report Card. Everyone agrees that while beach conditions are steadily improving, we still have a lot of work to do. I’m pleased to announce that this summer 71% of Los Angeles County beaches received an A grade in summer 2009. That’s a 26% jump from 2005 when only 46% of county beaches garnered the top grade.

As a part-time college professor, I know how much hard work goes into pulling up a grade. As the City’s Stormwater Program Manager, I see the tireless work that the City’s team puts into developing projects that transform beaches. One especially noteworthy project is the low-flow diversion program. Every summer day, 23 low-flow diversions along the Santa Monica Bay coastline redirect hundreds of thousands of gallons of polluted urban runoff into our sanitary sewer system for treatment. We are tackling next the pollution that flows to Santa Monica Bay during the winter months. Recent Proposition O-funded upgrades will make for eight City-owned low-flow diversions that will redirect contaminated urban runoff during dry winter days improving water quality year round.

So this summer, get out there and enjoy LA’s beautiful beaches! Because of our team work, our beaches are cleaner than they’ve been in a generation. And, with your ongoing support, our beaches will continue to improve for generations to come.

Best Regards,

Shahram Kharaghani, Stormwater Program Manager

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Win Two FREE Tickets to Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach!

Subscribe to the LA Stormwater YouTube channel and post "I love clean water" in the channel comments section from now until August 16th, 2010 and you will be entered to win 2 FREE tickets to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach!

Big thanks to the Aquarium of the Pacific's sustainable seafood initiative - Seafood for the Future - for donating the tickets!

Winner will be announced on August 17th in LA Stormwater's channel comments section, so make sure to check back on that date.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Coast is Clear(er)

We live in an age where cutting edge technology is everywhere, making our lives and its related challenges easier to solve. Often times we aren’t aware or able to understand the technology that makes our lives easier. It just happens in the background, without us knowing. We simply reap the benefits.

And so it is in our ongoing fight to combat ocean pollution. On any given summer day here in Los Angeles more than 100 million gallons of polluted urban runoff flow untreated to Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays. To put this amount into perspective, 100 million gallons is enough water to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim. This flow easily increases to one billion gallons during a normal storm event.

Unbeknownst to many Angelenos, the City of Los Angeles has been employing state-of-the-art technology all along Pacific Coast Highway to address the urban runoff issue plaguing Southland beaches. This technology comes in the form of low flow diversion (LFD) projects. Here’s the gist: during low rainfall periods (like summer months) water still flows through the storm drain system. This water ends of flowing to the ocean. However, when this water hits LFD installations bacteria and other pollutants get removed.

Since the late 1990s, 23 LFDs have been operating under the ground and under the radar to improve Santa Monica Bay’s (SMB) water quality. They are the unsung heroes of the ongoing urban runoff pollution challenge, working tirelessly during the summer months when the level of polluted flow is relatively low, to improve water quality at LA beaches. Behind the scenes, these low flow diversions quietly re-direct polluted storm water runoff from our storm drains into our sanitary sewer system, keeping the pollution from ever reaching beaches. Once in LA’s sewer system, the polluted runoff flows to the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant where it is treated before being discharged into the bay. In fact, these low flow diversions have been so instrumental in improving water quality that Heal the Bay noted in their 2007 Beach Report that LFD projects resulted in long stretches of beaches in our area receiving consistently good grades. This recognition was a first in Heal the Bay’s history.

However, like everything in this tech age, there’s always room for an upgrade and the LFDs are no different. The City is taking advantage of funding available from Proposition O, the Clean Water Bond passed in 2004, to improve eight City-owned and operated low flow diversions to be able to re-route polluted storm water flow to sanitary sewers for treatment year round during dry weather. These upgrades have been in progress since October of 2009. Several of which will be completed later this summer with the remaining LFD upgrades to be complete and operational by fall 2010.

These improvements will translate into increased capacity and system reliability that means we can prevent any kind of polluted dry-weather flow, summer or winter, from flowing to the ocean making life in and around Santa Monica Bay life a little easier and our coast a little clearer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kids Ocean Day Through the Eyes of a Teacher

Hi there, I’m Natalie Guerboian, Special Education teacher here at Newcastle Elementary school, which participated in Kids Ocean Day 2010. It was a first time experience for me and my students, as I am a first year teacher. It was something special to see thousands of students coming together to help keep our oceans clean.

A few of my students were amazed to see the amount of trash left behind and washed up on the beach. They really enjoyed picking up the trash and having an impact on cleaning up a small part of our coastline. The experience of cleaning the beach taught them why it is important to recycle and throw away trash. I enjoyed watching their debates and reasoning as to why one item should or should not be recycled.

As one of my students said, “Ms. Guerboian, why is it so hard for people to just throw their trash in the trash cans?” It is so true. There is trash and recycling bins conveniently available for us, therefore there is no excuse for not properly dispensing trash.

I would like to see beach clean-ups take place more often, but that doesn’t mean we should only clean on “clean-up” days. My students and I witnessed how simple it is to clean up a beach. All you need is a garbage bag! We shouldn’t have to wait to be told to clean up; we should just do it ourselves.

When kids participate in these hands-on events, I feel it gives them a firsthand experience and a positive influence. In addition, they have a sense of accomplishment where they can say, “Hey, I’ve just saved a dolphin’s life by recycling that coke can”. My students and the rest of the millions of children out there are our future. They need to be aware about the effects of marine debris on animals. They need to utilize the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) in their everyday life.

This planet is our home and it is our responsibility to maintain its beauty and care for it on a daily basis.

Natalie Guerboian is a first-year special education teacher at Newcastle Elementary School. Her classroom was one of the hundreds of such that participated in Kids Ocean Day, bringing the total number of students who attended the annual clean-up event at close to 4,000. Below you can see a video of Natalie talking about her and her students' experience.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Great L.A. River Cleanup: An Interview with Sofia Mohaghegh

In May 2010 Sofia Mohaghegh, an Environmental Engineering Associate II with the City of Los Angeles' Watershed Protection Division volunteered with other City Sanitation employees during La Gran Limpieza (or the Great Clean-Up) an annual spring Los Angeles River clean-up event organized by Friends of the Los Angeles River. Sofia recently answered a few questions about the event and the day's enviro-happenings.

City of Los Angeles: Was this your first clean-up event or do you regularly volunteer at these types of events?

Sofia Mohaghegh: I have been participating in clean-up events since I was in college, and I carried the habit with me from then on. It's just a great way to invest yourself in the community. I've attended Coastal Cleanup Day at a different site every year since 2005, and also a few other events that occur sporadically at different times throughout the year.

City of Los Angeles: What is your motivation for participating in this type of event?

Sofia Mohaghegh: I want to do my part to help clean up our waterbodies, especially since it is related to my day job. I want to see how well we're doing and if our projects are working. I also live in LA near the LA River and bike there sometimes, so I want to be proud of my river and be able to enjoy it for what it should be - a river and not a dump site!

City of Los Angeles: Was there anything that struck you about La Gran Limpieza?

Sofia Mohaghegh: This was the first time I attended La Gran Limpieza, and I was really impressed by the work ethic of the people that attended. Everyone got right to work and really did a good job cleaning our section of the river. All that hard work and no pay - you've got to admire those people that are dedicated to improving their community!

City of Los Angeles: Approximately, how many people attended? What types of trash did you pick up?

Sofia Mohaghegh: There were probably around 50 people (best guess by looking around, not an official count) at the Los Feliz Blvd site. The number one item collected at the event was plastic bags. We've got to do something about those plastic bags. There were also some remnants of abandoned homeless encampments that needed to be cleaned up.

City of Los Angeles: Are there any other events that you're planning on volunteering for?

Sofia Mohaghegh: I am planning to attend a beach cleanup at Dockweiler with the Sierra Club and Heal the Bay in July. And of course, I will be doing Coastal Cleanup Day in September!

City of Los Angeles: What would you say to encourage people who are considering volunteering
at an event like this?

Sofia Mohaghegh: Don't consider it - Do it! It's hard work, but a lot of fun, and you'll meet other people who are friendly and as caring about the environment as you are!

Sofia Mohagheh is an Environmental Engineering Associate who has been with the City of Los Angeles for five years. She works on projects related to reducing pollutants in LA's regional waterways. When she's not working to improve the quality of water in LA's rivers and lakes, she leads hikes for the Sierra Club and gives art tours for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The LA River was recently designated as navigable, read more about how this will impact the river.

*Photo courtesy of Tenky on Flickr.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Consideration of LID Ordinance at Energy & Environment Council Committee

Due to a scheduling conflict, the proposed Low Impact Development (LID) Ordinance will not be considered by the Energy and Environment Council Committee at their July 20, 2010 meeting. The Committee will schedule the LID Ordinance for a future meeting once the City Council returns in September from their recess.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and will continue to notify you as early as possible about upcoming LID Ordinance related meetings.

For the latest information on the LID Ordinance and a copy of the latest draft of the proposed ordinance, please visit our LA Stormwater LID Page.

Best Regards,

Shahram Kharaghani
L.A. Stormwater Program Manager

New Bacteria Limits Set for LA River

On July 9, 2010, The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) held a hearing in Glendale to decide the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for bacteria in the LA River.

TMDLs establish the maximum amount of pollutants that are allowed to enter a particular water body in order to comply with federal water quality standards. LARWQCB approved a new bacteria TMDL for the LA River during dry weather seasons over the next 25 years in order to meet already established goals.
The adoption of new TMDL standards came after a two-year long stakeholder process called Cleaner Rivers Through Effective Stakeholder-led TMDLs (CREST). The City of Los Angeles spearheaded the group’s discussions.

“This was the first TMDL adopted AFTER completion of significant scientific study, with detailed assessment of implementation strategies to meet the waste load allocation, and their costs,” said Catherine Tyrrell of Malcolm Pirnie, one of several individuals on the CREST consultant team.

This fix will help to keep dangerous strains of bacteria like E. coli from entering the stormwater system and then entering the LA River where it is dumped into waters off of Long Beach. Such pollutants can harm human and aquatic life.

Inland cities will have to comply with the standards by adopting a number of different techniques from best management practices to treatment facility construction.

*Photo courtesy of LAist.com

Friday, July 9, 2010

L.A. River to Receive Protections under the Clean Water Act

This past week a big change occurred in how the Federal government views the L.A. River. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited Southern California and announced that the river would be designated as 'traditional navigable waters'. That may not mean much on its surface, but it certainly means a lot for those that want to see the river repaired.

"We're moving away from the concrete," Jackson told more than 200 residents and government officials as she stood next to Compton Creek, one of the LA River’s main tributaries, and one that has been marred by chronic pollution. “We want the L.A. River to demonstrate how urban waterways across the country can serve as assets in building stronger neighborhoods, attracting new businesses and creating new jobs."

Check out when Lisa Jackson announced the great news (footage courtesy of Creek Freak’s Joe Linton).

With the ‘navigable’ designation, the L.A. River will now receive protections under the Clean Water Act, which the community hopes will be a step toward cleaning up the watershed. Ultimately the goal will be to make the river safe for humans and for wildlife.

The Los Angeles Times explained its significance:

“Protection under the Clean Water Act sets the stage for a multitude of ambitious plans, including removing the concrete liners and using modern technology to provide both flood protection and natural habitat that can attract wildlife and encourage human recreation. Plans to create badly needed parks and green spaces along the river — which also would attract new shopping and other commerce — would receive priority consideration. Proposed developments near the headwaters in the San Fernando Valley and along tributaries could neither pollute the river nor bury or harm its tributaries.”

Check out Creek Freak’s five part series on significance of navigability in our local waterways.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monthly Events: Sunshine and Volunteering: A Recipe for a Great July

Summer is in full swing here in Southern California. This month is packed full of great events and volunteer opportunities, so pick a weekend to check out a local eco event or donate a few hours of your time to a good green cause!

>On Saturday, July 10th there are a number of events to choose from. Check out the Eco Fest in Venice, the Lotus Festival in Echo Park or hop on over to Topanga Canyon for a creek side tree planting. You might want to check out the Green Expo, hosted by The Metropolitan Water District, where 40 environmental exhibits will be ready for the browsing. You could also put on your boots and help Santa Monica Baykeeper restore Stone Canyon Creek near UCLA.

>If Saturday is too busy, come out on Sunday, July 11th where Surfrider is putting on an event in Los Angeles in conjunction with Green Garden Group in a hands-on workshop about landscaping and water use.

>Want to share your gardening expertise? Help maintain trees that were planted by TreePeople and volunteers two years ago in San Pedro on Tuesday, July 13th.

>Saturday, July 17th is another busy day for nature lovers. Prune some fruit trees in Sylmar or chip in for some hearty mountain restoration in Calabasas. Or come out to Venice and join Heal the Bay in saying no to trash by picking up litter to ensure that sand is the only thing gracing the beach.

>If you are a fan of clean streets and are looking to volunteer a couple of hours, you may want to mark off Sunday, July 18th on your calendar and head to Highland Park to weed, mulch and trim street trees in the area.

>If your weekends are too full come out on Thursday, July 22nd, where TreePeople will be at it again in Coldwater Canyon Park in the late morning for a cool park project.

>Help the City reach the goal of the one million trees planted inPalms on July 24th. Friends of Ballona Wetlands will also be tackling a restoration project in Playa Del Ray.

>Or how about checking out a Farm Work Day in Los Angeles on Monday July 26th, to help maintain the Normandie Ave Elementary School’s and John Muir Middle School’s learning gardens?

>Lastly, if you can’t squeeze out any time earlier in the month, your last chance comes on July 31st, where you help TreePeople take care of some new trees in Studio City.

Check out all of the month’s events that aid stormwater by visiting our calendar at http://www.calendarwiz.com/calendars/calendar.php

And if you have any upcoming events (volunteer or otherwise), please send them on over to us and we’d be happy to include them in our community calendar!

*Photo courtesy of beach.freedomblogging.com

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Low Impact Development (LID) Ordinance and Handbook Update

Legislative action, meetings, committees selected - we have a lot to update you on regarding the City of Los Angeles Low Impact Development Ordinance and its related handbook. Here is what's going on:

Mayor's Office Completes Review of LID Ordinance

We're pleased to report that the Mayor's office has completed its review of the proposed Low Impact Development (LID) Ordinance and has forwarded it onto the Los Angeles City Council for their review. The first Council committee reviewing the proposed ordinance will be the Energy and Environment Council Committee, possibly in the later part of July. We'll notify you when the date of the hearing has been announced. This is another major milestone reached on the path towards enacting Los Angeles Low Impact Development legislation.

Kick-Off Meeting gets LID Handbook Project off on the Right Foot

On Thursday, May 20th, 55 contractors, consultants, officials, non-profits and active residents came out to the LA River Center for an informational and impassioned kick off-meeting for the LID Handbook Project. Several presentations from City representatives as well as an involved Q & A session comprised the launch meeting for the Handbook Project.

Vik Bapna of California Watershed Engineering stated "As a whole, I think the meeting went pretty well. We've got a lot of people here with a significant amount of experience in a lot of different arenas. I think that we're going to be able to put together something that gets LID in Los Angeles off on the right foot."

LID Handbook Committee Begins Working

On June 29, the LID Handbook Technical Partners committee met to begin writing the manual that will accompany the LID Ordinance. Representatives from the City of Los Angeles, environmental organizations, the building industry and engineering firms were in attendance. In the meeting, committee members reviewed a proposed table of contents for the draft LID Handbook, reviewed the proposed timeline and divided themselves into two sub-committees to address the individual requirements of smaller residential developments and larger residential and commercial developments.

It's our goal to send regular updates via e-blasts regarding the Low Impact Development ordinance and related handbook project so stay tuned!

Thank you,

Shahram Kharaghani
L.A. Stormwater Program Manager