Ballona Creek Prepares For Big And Small Projects

Ballona Creek was a vastly different watershed when Los Angeles became a city in 1781. Researchers believe that the watershed was home to 14,000 acres of wetlands featuring meadows, fresh water ponds and thickets of Willow trees. It even had a different name – Ballena. There is no word “Ballona” in the Spanish language. One theory is that the watershed’s intended name was Ballena, which means whale in Spanish. At the mouth of Ballona Creek, early Los Angeles settlers often watched migrating whales. The story goes that Ballena was misspelled as Ballona at some point in its early history and the new name stuck.

Today’s Ballona Creek watershed is one of LA’s most developed areas with only 17% open space. Almost half of the watershed is covered by roads, rooftops and other impervious surfaces. The impermeable nature of the watershed makes finding solutions to reduce the amount of bacteria in Ballona Creek especially challenging, but future regional and local projects aim to do just that.

Three regional projects that are under consideration for Ballona Creek’s not-so-distant future will utilize low-flow diversions and treatment technologies to improve Ballona Creek’s water quality during dry weather. The concept of these three projects are currently being developed, and we anticipate beginning the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process in early 2017. One of the options being considered is a hybrid system that couples the treatment and release of some flow with the diversion of the remaining polluted runoff to the sanitary sewer system for treatment. These projects would have the capacity to divert and treat 30 million gallons of water every day that it’s dry in Los Angeles. If selected as the alternative via the EIR process, the City of Los Angeles in partnership with the cities of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, Inglewood and the Los Angeles County Flood Control Program, would share the cost of these low-flow treatment and diversion facilities. 

Smaller, neighborhood projects are also in the plans for Ballona Creek. The Vermont Avenue Green Street Project and the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway Project are two local projects that will provide multi-benefits for LA neighborhoods. Both projects will utilize a natural systems approach to manage stormwater, reduce flows, recharge groundwater supplies, improve water quality and enhance watershed health. Both of these projects are scheduled to begin construction in 2018.

So while Ballona Creek may have changed dramatically since those Angelenos first spotted whales migrating along California’s coast, these big and small projects will soon be working to keep current-day Ballona Creek and Santa Monica Bay clean for all creatures – both big and small.

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