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Posted 1/3/2013

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By Dave Palmer

ENCINO, Calif. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District halted work late December 2012, on the five-year vegetation management project for the Sepulveda Dam Flood Control Basin to host further discussion with the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Steering Committee and other stakeholders. The project is restricted to the 48 acres south of Burbank Boulevard and will reintroduce diverse, sustainable native species while maintaining the basin’s primary function.

“Environmental stewardship is critical to the way the Corps does business,” said Tomas Beauchamp-Hernandez, Operations Branch chief. “The safety of basin users is paramount and the vegetation management project allows for inspection, monitoring and maintenance of flood risk management infrastructure for Sepulveda Dam, while providing sustainable habitat.”

A 2011 update to the Sepulveda Dam Basin Master Plan ultimately led to the Environmental Assessment for the vegetative management area. The Corps held Community workshops Dec. 5, 2009, Feb. 20, 2010, and April 24, 2010. The draft master plan and Environmental Assessment was published in March 2011 and finalized in September 2011.

In August 2012, the Los Angeles District released a draft EA for proposed action to mow and mulch all non-native, invasive vegetation, vegetative debris, and areas that have been burned by accidental fires in the Sepulveda Dam Basin. The preliminary environmental assessment was published as a Public Notice on the Los Angeles District website from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7, 2012, for public review and comment. Comments received were un-related to the proposed work resulting in no impact on the proposed action with no revisions to the EA and a Finding of No Significant Impact was issued.

On Dec. 10, 2012, Corps maintenance teams began work in the vegetation management area, overseen by a Corps ecologist and a landscape architect with plant life expertise who deliberately directed which non-native trees could be removed. Only three trees, all non-native, were removed; a eucalyptus, a palm and a pine. The removal of bushes and brush cannot be done more selectively because of the degree to which the non-native vegetation has overtaken the native vegetation. The Corps did not bulldoze [clear cut] vegetation and root balls for native vegetation remain. Phase one of the project is barely 25 percent complete with mulching still required, as well as selective treatment of non-native vegetation. Non-native trees and invasive species will be further identified and removed to complete phase one.

“Some of the clearing was conducted to prevent lewd conduct, drug dealing, trespassing and violent crime at the request of public officials and agencies to include: LA Department of General Services, Office of Public Safety and the Los Angeles City Council,” said Beauchamp-Hernandez. “Some of the transient population and illicit activities impeded the Corps’ ability to conduct flood mitigation and, therefore, impacted public safety from that perspective.”

In all, the Corps removed approximately 80 tons of trash and knocked down underbrush in preparation for mulching.

The roughly 180 acres of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area, located at 6350 Woodley Ave., is untouched by the recent work. The District currently has a 50-year lease with City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for the area and has cost-shared more than $30 million in recreational amenities over the past 40 years, placing great emphasis on restoration of wildlife habitat.

Because the Los Angeles District does not operate any recreation programs in its 226,000 square mile area of responsibility, the District does not have Park Rangers. Corps outdoor recreation planners serve as liaisons with city and county recreation managers. The vegetative management area is the sole responsibility of the Corps.

Basin Master Plan corps environmental flood risk management los angeles district public safety Sepulveda Dam USACE vegetation management plan