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March 2008

Martin Byhower and his students take a break after a morning of restoration work

Cleaning Up Machado Lake:
The Mission of Martin Byhower

On a crisp Saturday morning, Martin Byhower unloads his van for a half-days worth of restoration work in the 231-acre Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park (Ken Malloy Park), home of Machado Lake, which is nestled in the South Bay region of Los Angeles.

Every second Saturday of month, Byhower, a 7th Grade Life Science teacher at Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, organizes a renewal project in the park where current students and members of the schools environmental club get their hands dirty — while they learn about the ecology of one of L.A.s most important natural habitats.

"Getting the community involved in restoring this treasure is vital if we are to turn this place around," says Byhower, who has been volunteering his time to improving the park for over 20 years and also serves as President of Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society. "This is really a part-time job for me."

Machado Lake and its surrounding environment are in need of a major recovery effort. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has identified the lake as an impaired water body for DDT, PCBs, pesticides, ammonia, algae, eutrophic conditions, trash, and odor, all of which have negatively affected human as well as aquatic health. Even so, the park is still perhaps the most significant site for migratory bird stopovers in all of Southern California.

Aside from the inherent benefits to threatened and endangered birds, such as the White-tailed Kite, Brown Pelican and California Least Tern — the 40-acre Machado Lake and its surrounding wetlands also serve as a flood retention basin for almost 20 square miles of the Dominguez Watershed, which covers the majority of land in the southern portion of Los Angeles. Discharges from the lake potentially end up in the West Basin of the Los Angeles Harbor.

This is why Martin Byhower is excited that the City of Los Angeles has allocated $117 million in Proposition O funds to clean up Machado Lake and perform restoration projects in the park over the coming years.

During the morning renewal event organized by Byhower, student volunteers and several parents pulled out non-native plants such as coastal sage brush and bush sunflower, cleaned up broken glass and litter, and learned more about the greater ecosystem functions of the lake and park.

"This [project] is a culmination of efforts and recommendations that members of this community have been requesting for a long time," Byhower explains. "It is very good news that the City is putting money behind restoring this area. The Prop O money is going to fund a really great plan that addresses many vital issues. We are all thrilled to see the improvements to come."

With its lush greenery and tranquil waters, Machado Lake is an oasis within the Dominguez Channel Watershed.


OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE: Manager’s Welcome | Prop O Update | "Green" Streets | EPA Kudos | First Responders

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