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VNC Favors Alternative to Ballona Restoration Plan

The council will vote on supporting an alternative to the current Ballona restoration project.

The Venice Neighborhood Council on Tuesday will vote to oppose the current methodology for the Ballona Wetlands restoration project.

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the project that aims to revitalize the area for wildlife and remove some concrete banks along Ballona Creek to improve water circulation. The council’s proposed motion reflects an idea popular with some community members and organizations that seeks to limit the use of heavy machinery to restore the wetlands.

The motion claims the current plan is “highly invasive and will bring a massive construction site, including significant traffic impacts, to the Westside community for years.”

In a 10-step alternative plan, the council seeks to protect wildlife species and minimize impact on their habitat by limiting the use of mechanized equipment. The board also encourages purchasing more land adjacent to the wetlands. 

In a January letter, the Sierra Club made similar recommendations claiming that the project “is not protective of the wildlife and ecological needs of that wildlife” and that it does not support “heavily mechanized engineered, bulldozer-driven approach to the Ballona Wetlands.”

Amid some opposition from environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, the California Coastal Conservancy approved moving forward with the project in January to begin analyzing the 600-acre wetlands area for restoration.

Friends of Ballona Wetlands, a nonprofit, opposes the Venice Neighborhood Council’s position limiting mechanized restoration.

“The proposed Motion is not only the wrong position for a City Neighborhood Council to take, based on technical and regulatory merit, but is a premature position on a project that has yet to be proposed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act,” the nonprofit said in a letter.

Friends of Ballona Wetlands claims that the project would take about 46 years if it were done without machinery. Although the organization does not exclude a community alternative, based mostly on volunteer work rather than reliance on machinery, it is apprehensive in supporting the proposal because it would “minimally enhance existing tidal hydrology by hand-constructing tidal channels without the use of mechanized equipment for excavation.”  

The comment period on the Ballona Wetlands Environmental Impact Report ends on Tuesday. Afterward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin drafting the EIR.

At the moment, the wetlands are mostly closed to the public. The California Coastal Conservancy is working in conjunction with several state commissions and local agencies. The restoration project is expected to be complete in about 10 years.

The Venice Neighborhood Council will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Westminster Elementary School Auditorium, located at 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd. 

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