L.A .Environmentalist Shifting to Water Management

Andy Lipkis is perhaps the most important environmentalist in L.A. Now he wants to put his resources and group to use in an ambitious watershed project in Sun Valley.
May 11, 2005, 12pm PDT | Brenda Meyer
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"...Lipkis has spent the better part of the last seven years trying to help fix Sun Valley’s flooding problem with an ambitious flood-management project. The idea centers on the notion that water in Southern California is an expensive and precious resource, and if some of the 30 or so inches that fall here in a wet winter could be filtered and stored for drier months, the watershed system would eventually save the city money. If it turns out the way he imagines, the watershed plan will not only drain, filter and store the water that collects in the streets between the Tujunga Wash and the Burbank Airport but also improve the living conditions of this chronically neglected community with acres of recreational green space at the Sun Valley Park and Recreation Center.

Certainly, Lipkis’ project is a far cry from the $42 million storm drain the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works had in mind just a year before he turned up. Back then, Sun Valley’s water was scheduled to be disposed of in the tradition established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1938: into the ocean as quickly as possible, ferrying whatever bacteria and trash it picked up along the way in concrete channels.

The new plan involves years of engineering, large- and small-scale urban forestry projects and replacing miles of asphalt with “permeable” concrete. The water will percolate back into the Valley’s cavernous basin, the source of 15 percent of the city’s water. When all its phases are completed, its budget may top $300 million — six times the original county plan, but with six times the sources of funding. Says Lipkis, “It’s attracting a lot of resources.”"

Thanks to Brenda Meyer

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Published on Monday, May 9, 2005 in LA Weekly
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