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District commander addresses LA River Committee about Sepulveda clearing

Published Jan. 30, 2013
Col. Mark Toy, commander of the Army Corps' Los Angeles District, receives a Jan. 7 briefing and inspects the area in Sepulveda Basin where vegetation removal in early December 2012 led to concerns from environmentalists and local residents.

Col. Mark Toy, commander of the Army Corps' Los Angeles District, receives a Jan. 7 briefing and inspects the area in Sepulveda Basin where vegetation removal in early December 2012 led to concerns from environmentalists and local residents.

LOS ANGELES –Col. Mark Toy, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, addressed the LA City Council Ad Hoc River Committee Jan. 28, telling members that despite not adhering to the District's best management practices to properly communicate vegetation management activities in the Sepulveda Basin, his focus is to identify and work with the right people to develop a consensus on ways to move forward with flood risk reduction, ecosystem management and recreation in the basin.

Included in the meeting were public comments by a variety of group representatives and individuals. Most expressed dismay at the extent and variety of vegetation removed from a section of the basin in early December 2012 and in the notification process to inform the public about the upcoming work.

“The EA was on a public website for a two week period,” Toy said about the environmental assessment for removing the vegetation, “but what we didn’t do was follow our best practice of notifying those individuals (stakeholders) of the work we were going to do in that area.”

Toy said he talked to nearly two dozen people in early January, including U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, several state senators and representatives, city council members, environmental groups, residents and recreationists, to hear their concerns and to implement their suggestions in future phases of vegetative management in the basin.

The Phase I vegetative removal was part of the basin's master plan to safely maintain the dam's flood risk reduction capabilities. The Corps must remove the downed material before the March 15 environmental window precludes work in the area.

“I don’t want debris that might inhibit our ability to operate in our flood control operations,” Toy said.

Toy said the input from stakeholders will be incorporated into determining the future vegetation regimen in the area, and that despite the impression given by some media reports, re-vegetation was always part of the vegetation management plan for the area.

“I do want to make the point, though,” Toy said, “that the intent of this process was always to re-vegetate the area.”

Toy will conduct an on-site walking tour of the area Feb. 12 with the stakeholders to further that effort.