LA: Gearing for the storms and looking for money

By Abner Galino

Sandy Close (at the rostrum) of the Ethnic Media Services poses a question to Los Angeles County Department of Public Works officials composed of (from left to right) Kerjon Lee, Edel Vizcarra, Jolene Guerrero and Eric Batman during a press conference at the Oxford Basin in Marina Del Rey last week. Photo by Abner Galino

LONG ago, engineers design cities to make storm water go away as quickly as possible. Today, with the upsurge in urban dwellers and with the day-to-day weather conditions growing increasingly erratic and extreme, such designs no longer work for cities and its dwellers.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (LADPW) has since rolled out a game plan intended to capture the water, clean it, make it safe and make the structural component of the conservation efforts to work for everyone.

But always one of the big questions is: Where to get the money?

On October 4, the media was afforded a close look at how a storm water management system works. A press conference was held at the Oxford Basin Multiuse Enhancement Project in Marina Del Rey.

LADWP experts saw an opportunity to broadcast the 65 percent chance that Los Angeles County will get an El Nino winter, and along with it, drumbeat for conservation efforts and the modernization plan for the county’s 100-year-old water infrastructure.

It’s a two and a half cent per square foot of impermeable area parcel tax for private property in LA County. It’s gonna generate roughly US$300 million a year to build projects that you see behind me,” said one of the speakers, Edel Vizcarra of LADPW, pointing to the Oxford Basin facility behind him.

Vizcarra was talking about Measure W, a storm water funding measure that will be on the ballot on November 6.

According to him, projects such as the Oxford Basin could be built around the county when the said measure gets the voters’ approval.

According to Vizcarra about “two thirds of our water that we use here in LA County comes from outside sources” and this supply can be cut back if drought strikes the region.

Media people walk around the perimeter of the Oxford Basin in Marina Del Rey as a Los Angeles public works official explains how such a structure is helping conserve water and, at the same time, improve the quality of life in the community. Photo by Abner Galino

Measure W could generate money to build systems similar to the Oxford Basin and other watershed-based projects; while about 40 percent of the funds would go back to the cities in the form of local returns. 

For every dollar that’s generated on a parcel in a disadvantaged community, they get a dollar and ten cents,” Vizcarra added.

Money from the said measure would also be spent creating school curriculum meant to increase awareness on water conservation and related matters, job trainings, et cetera.

October 1st, this past Monday, is what we call our water year. And on Sunday, September 30, was the end of our previous water year,” Eric Batman said, senior civil engineer at the LADWP.

Batman said the “odds are tilted in our favor” as far as the possibility of LA county getting more rain during this so-called water year.

Every year we make sure that we go out before the storm season starts and make sure that our facilities are ready to go,” Batman added.

Another LADPW official, Jolene Guererro, told the media that the Oxford Basin was developed in 1959 to capture storm water. It was re-built in 2015 and was fitted with structural enhancements to adapt to the native ecosystem.

They cleaned up the sediment, they added native plants around the edges that could help capture some of the pollutants that flow with the rain water,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero noted that the Oxford Basin didn’t just improved the water quality in the area but also improved the community, noting the walking trails that were added to its design.

Some 100 billion gallons run down the curbs and drain into the ocean every year. Measure W will help build the infrastructure to filter toxins before they enter local waterways and flow onto the beach.


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Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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