God, lawn and me


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Sitting on the kitchen table is a rebate form from the local water company that I can’t bring myself to sign. Admittedly, a tidy slug of cash would be welcome for having replaced a toilet with an aquarium-sized tank with a low-flow version, and for having smothered and replaced a water-hungry backyard lawn with a mix of food and native plants that require a fraction of the water and provide many times the benefits. But even touching the rebate form feels corrupt. What kind of person expects to be paid for an act that is the opposite of sacrifice?

More rock for LACMA, please

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art compares the Levitated Mass to the construction of the Pyramids. After captivating the world’s press by parading the 340-ton boulder from Riverside to mid-city Los Angeles last winter, the latest news is that the museum is about to officially declare its rock open for visitors. Irony of ironies, just as our collective gaze is once again drawn toward this $10m publicity stunt, roughly 20m cubic yards of the kind of rock that can’t be levitated has built up around the headwaters of LA’s paved rivers. In contrast to the Levitated Mass, it’s not getting much press while the infrastructure that holds it can and should rightly be compared to the Pyramids. This is the flood control system of 14 dams and 162 debris basins that form what historian Jared Orsi describes as “a Maginot line” between the San Gabriel Mountains and the

Los Angeles built into a corner

LA’s improbable relationship with the San Gabriel Mountains makes the cover story High Country News: The list price was $1.125 million in August 2011, when Sotheby’s International Realty held the first open house for 1674 Highland Oaks Drive, in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia. Scented candles burned, classical music played and the air conditioner ran as potential buyers milled through the home’s three bedrooms, living room and combination den/dining room. Through sliding glass doors, a pool was visible in the rear garden; beyond it stood a sharply trimmed hedge. Past the hedge, in the ravine below it, a deep wash lay. Metropolitan Los Angeles ends at the edge of this canyon property, and above the wash, its steeply upland collar of national forest begins.

Once, like all the canyons threading the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Anita Wash had a stream tumbling through it, lined with coast

The common purse: Las Posas / Cadiz

A previous post, Rancho Santa Margarita, Meet Calleguas, hit a hornet’s nest. The decision to write it was little more than an instinct. “Poke there.”  The post referred to something called the “Las Posas Basin Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project,” described by the Los Angeles Times during the project’s inception in the 1990s as “the largest reservoir in Ventura County, ensuring a reliable water supply in cities from Simi Valley to Oxnard in the event of drought or earthquake.”

Las Posas wasn’t big. It was bigger. “The $47-million project near Moorpark will hold more water than Lake Casitas and nearly four times what Lake Piru holds,” reported the Times.

Until it didn’t. When last month the Ventura County Reporter recounted that the capacity proved to not be the much-celebrated 300,000 acre feet, but instead 50,000 acre feet, no villain was named. Who needs a villain when, as the

Rancho Santa Margarita, meet Calleguas

UPDATED 5/11/2012: As the board of the Rancho Santa Margarita Water District wades through the Draft Environmental Impact Report produced for them by their partners at Cadiz, Inc in the bid to involve the Orange County municipal water company in a water mining scheme in the Mojave Desert, let us pause to look at some bona fides of a lead Cadiz consultant. Cadiz engineer Terry Foreman would have Rancho Santa Margarita believe that “using 50,000 acre-feet per year is optimal for conservation” from a basin with recharge that is perhaps one tenth of that, and that mining groundwater poses “no long-term impacts to the desert environment.”

Believe that and you’ll believe in chocolate cake diets, so it seems unlikely that anyone involved in the project really cares about the Mojave. Yet when it comes to cost, the Rancho Santa Margarita Water District board of directors

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