San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles Watersheds Initiate New Plan Vital to Survival

Conservancies to Consider Adoption of Landmark New Open Space Plan

The San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, known as the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC), and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), will consider the adoption of the landmark, regional open space plan "Common Ground: From the Mountains to the Sea" at a joint meeting of the two conservancies at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2001, in Pasadena.

Under the auspices of the California Resources Agency, the RMC and SMMC have completed Phase One of the San Gabriel & Los Angeles Rivers watershed and open space plan. The RMC was established in 2000 to preserve urban open space and habitats in order to provide for low-impact recreation and educational uses, wildlife and habitat restoration and protection, and watershed improvements. The SMMC was created in 1980 to acquire land and operate programs for conservation, parkland and recreation purposes.

The "Common Ground" plan will provide a framework for all land and water resources planning in the double watershed encompassing the two rivers. A watershed is the area drained by a single river and its tributaries. The "Common Ground" plan addresses the linked watersheds of the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers, which together drain 1,460 square miles from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, an area in which more than 7 million people currently live. The Plan is expected to become a key tool for future open space planning and for seeking funds from federal, state and private sources.

"This plan belongs to the communities, cities, counties, state and federal agencies who have been working with us toward this goal for some time," said Mary Angle, executive officer of the RMC. "City leaders, planners, water agencies, environmental and community groups, and the county, have aided in the crafting of this Plan. Our next step is to engage the cities to also formally resolve to adopt the plan."

Belinda Faustinos, chief deputy director of SMMC said, "The SMMC has been working with agencies and groups to improve our rivers, provide more open space, and create bike paths and trails for over 20 years. Progress has been made, but much work remains. This plan will facilitate working together with a regional approach to implement projects and securing funding."

The completion of "Common Ground" is the culmination of diligent efforts to coalesce multiple agencies, organizations public, private and non-profit, into adopting a united, regional approach to managing natural resources. Now the SMMC and RMC will set out to further engage local cities in approving phase one of the Plan in their respective territories. Cities in Los Angeles, Southern Ventura and Northern Orange Counties, along with water entities and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors must also embrace this document as their guide before the state mandate can be met.

This plan will be instrumental in creating more open space in Southern California. Ultimately, open space areas can be connected with a network of trails and bike paths improving access for all residents. Habitat for wildlife can be preserved in the foothills, the mountains, and restored along rivers and tributaries in urban areas. Rivers can be enhanced, surface and ground waters cleansed, local water supply improved, and dependence on imported water reduced. Flood protection can also be maintained and improved.

The RMC will undertake the development of a second phase of the plan, which will include assisting cities to incorporate the plan into their general plans. Phase two of the plan will also compile a compendium of projects. The SMMC will develop a Watershed Work Program in 2002. However, the plan will be a living document that allows cities and agencies to propose projects as needed.

Oralia Michel Marketing & Public Relations

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