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Volume I, Issue III

Aerial view of proposed wetlands to be constructed at a former railway maintenance yard. View is looking southeast.

Habitat in the Making: South L.A. Wetlands

Los Angeles was historically a vast rolling plain of grassland scattered with large oak trees. The Los Angeles River and dozens of smaller streams meandered through broad valleys carrying fresh water to the sea. Grizzly bears roamed the hills and wild steelhead trout swam upstream to spawn. When oil was discovered, however, the diverse ecology of the region changed dramatically as naturally occurring wetlands were drained, oil derricks were constructed, and dams were built at a rapid pace.

It may be hard to imagine what once was, but the City of Los Angeles has recently allocated funds to construct wetlands and riparian habitat in a densely populated area of South Los Angeles. Residents will be able to enjoy new trails, boardwalks and educational kiosks at the new South Los Angeles Wetlands Park.

Located five miles south of downtown Los Angeles and a half mile east of the 110 freeway, the site where the wetlands will be constructed is an entire city block wide. The project’s location is currently a vacant commercial transportation facility that was originally built to serve as a maintenance and storage yard for the Los Angeles Railway’s fleet of trolley cars over 100 years ago.

"There is a scarcity of green space here, places to go and get in touch with nature," Rev. John Deron Johnson, pastor of Phillips Temple CME Church, a supporter of the wetlands project, recently told the Los Angeles Times.

The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park will serve a valuable purpose, not only to the community by providing open green space, but also for the environment by handling polluted stormwater runoff. The project, funded by Proposition O money, will construct a trash removal device, grease and oil skimmer, and a complex diversion system that will pre-treat an estimated 80,000 gallons of dry weather runoff each day. The water will then flow on to the wetlands area where it will be naturally treated through percolation before it is discharged back into the storm drain system.

Wetlands, with lush native plant vegetation and ample water habitat, serve an important function in providing consistent and reliable water quality improvements. The South L.A. Wetlands with a deep marsh in its main channel, like naturally occurring wetlands, will decontaminate toxins, protect drinking water supplies, reduce flooding and erosion and remove unwanted nutrients like nitrogen and heavy metals from the water before it reaches our oceans.

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE: Manager’s Message | Ocean Day 2008 | Beach Report Card | Low Flow Diversions

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