March 6, 2020 Features
The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve has been one of the only long standing natural reserves that remains in the city of Los Angeles, an ecological reserve home to many species.
On Feb. 13, protesters gathered together to speak out against a plan to expand gas storage facilities near the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. At the intersection of Jefferson and Lincoln, one protester told the Oarsman, “there was a lot of support from people honking their cars at us and giving us thumbs ups in support of us.” When asked about why she cares about The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, she said, “I care about the animals in that environment and I don’t want these animals to become displaced and be forced to live in urbanized areas or be forced to die.”
Protesters included members of the Food and Water Action organization and the Sierra Club, organizations that help fight for environmental protection, and residents of Playa Del Rey. They called on Mayor Garcetti and the city of Los Angeles to revoke SoCal Gas’ permit to expand their facility. They protested against the plan that may cause rising health concerns for many living in the Playa Del Rey area.
The SoCal Gas facility poses a threat to the local residents of the Playa Del Rey area in the past. The storage facility sits just below the houses in the area overlooked by a hill. Residents surrounding the facility complain of health concerns, like respiratory problems. They worry that expanding the facility could provide the circumstances that can lead to another Aliso Canyon incident.
Robert Vaghini, leader of Protect Playa Now, said in a statement in the Santa Monica College Corsair, that the 2015 gas leak at Aliso Canyon Porter Ranch was, “spewing methane, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals,” and “it was getting the community around it very sick,” Vaghini says. “Tens of thousands of people had to leave their homes for months.”
“If this facility were to have a similar event, like the Aliso Canyon disaster, there’s upwards of half a million people that live within five miles of this facility,” Vaghini says. “In addition to half a million residents, there are over 60 schools and universities within that five mile radius, as well as the fourth busiest airport in the world in less than three miles away.”
The Ballona Wetlands is one of the few remaining freshwater wetlands in Southern California and is home to bird species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act such as the California Least Tern and a subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow to name just a few. The wetlands are also a very important stop site for migrating birds to take a rest after thousands of miles traveled during migration. In the wetlands, migrating birds have a source of food, water, and shelter.
The State of California’s Dept. of Fish and Wildlife also has a radical plan to transform The Ballona Wetlands. It is proposing to flood the wetlands with saltwater from the Santa Monica Bay inland, dig up the wetlands twenty five to thirty feet and bulldoze the habitat of thousands of species that inhabit the wetlands. The purpose is to create a full tidal saltwater bay.
If the state continues with their plans of demolishing The Ballona Wetlands, there may be a displacement of migratory birds and thousands of species including endangered wildlife. Therefore, altering the wetlands can potentially violate the Endangered Species Act and result in a drop in population of migrating birds who may starve during migration without a stopover site. The wetlands have been around for 8,000- 10,000 years.
If The Ballona Ecological Reserve is altered, migratory birds could not be able to do their part in ecosystems. Thousands of species, including some of the endangered species in the Ballona may also be displaced, like the Brown Pelican, California Least Tern and the Belding Savannah Sparrow, according to The Ballona Wetlands website.
Wetlands are an important ecosystem with unique biodiversity. Wetlands function as storage for rain water, serves as habitats for biodiversity, and naturally purifies surface water, according to The Environmental Protection Agency. The wildlife in the Ballona supports other ecosystems, one example includes birds crucial part in “controlling pests, pollinating flowers, spreading seeds and regenerating forests,” according to an article by Carl Zimmerman by The New York Times called, “Birds are Vanishing From North American.” A decline of birds affects migratory birds mating patterns and their ability to find access to food.
As one of the only reserves that remains in Los Angeles, The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve offers many benefits to the community and contains lasting positive impacts on the environment.
If you want to learn more about the Ballona Wetlands, check out The Climate Reality Project, Protect Playa Now, or Sierra Club website.
Leave a Comment