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Army Corps of Engineers and the South Bay, July/August Update

Just as it has taken years to make the hydrological function of the South Bay more central to the civic conversation, FoH's more recent efforts to focus on toxicology issues are also beginning to bear fruit.  Any authentic program of ecological restoration of the South Bay must begin with a much clearer understanding of contaminants than we have at present.  Meg Carlon, a biologist by training and a member of our Task Force, has been especially clear about the sequence of steps that must occur to realize, even partially, any program of reversing decades of neglect and abuse of that complex system. More broadly, contaminant studies must precede any development proposals including the routing of trucks.  It is gratifying, therefore, to have had our analysis endorsed by the assembled experts at the recent Forum on the Ecology of the South Bay, as well as to observe these concepts more frequently voiced by others. There is a proposal on the table to proceed with the first step, a 100% federally-funded study of South Bay contaminants by the Army Corps of Engineers.  See previous entries for April 27 and June 24, 2010. A reconnaissance study is a document search which does not require permission by Holcim because on-site access to their property is not needed at this stage.  The South Bay Task Force sees no reason why this study could not proceed immediately.  The only requirement is a request in writing of the Army Corps of Engineers from the office of our Congressional representative.  We are at the point where a very few conversations and commitments will set the process in motion. In addition to the already stated needs and benefits of such a study, there are other positive considerations: 1.  Such a study does not require sanction by the LWRP.   It can proceed independently of that process but would naturally be complementary to it.. 2.  The results would be in the public domain, unlike the proprietary studies by Holcim to which City Attorney Cheryl Roberts referred at the July 12 Common Council presentation. 3.  Actually committing ourselves to this specific step would be a significant breakthrough, as much psychological and symbolic as substantive, that will bring into focus other steps in the sequence. 4.  Opportunities for funding subsequent tasks (e.g. matching funds for a Feasibility Study) would only increase by breaking the current and long-standing stalemate on substantive actions, an unfortunate byproduct of the LWRP process itself. 5.  Such a study will ground the discussion in the specific conditions of the South Bay, rescuing it from the mostly abstract public discussions (itself a symptom of "nature deficit disorder").