By: Agustin Cabrera, LAANE
Last week, Long Beach community leaders and members of the OurWaterLA coalition came together for a tour of the Dominguez Gap Wetlands to learn more about the benefits of stormwater projects in Los Angeles County. Our partners at Friends of the Los Angeles River led us on a beautiful, brisk walk down the wetlands to learn about the community and environmental impacts of this incredible multi-benefit project. For those unfamiliar, the Dominguez Gap Wetlands opened in 2008 and is adjacent to the Los Angeles River in the 8th district of the City of Long Beach.
A great blue heron at the top half of the wetlands welcomed us to his natural habitat and signaled the beginning of a successful tour. The lush native landscape provided the perfect green open space community members need to enjoy recreational activities like running and walking their dogs. Most importantly, the wetlands proved the need for spaces where residents could enjoy and connect with their local watersheds. We learned that projects such as the Dominguez Gap Wetlands not only provide communities with much needed green space, but they also contribute to the local groundwater system because of their location. Multi-benefit projects like the Dominguez Gap Wetlands are more economically and technically feasible; they put more stormwater into our groundwater while also maintaining flood protection along the river. Additionally, the project’s natural features improve water quality before it reaches the ocean, restores native habitat and provides a space for community to access safe pedestrian and bike trails.
These multi-benefit projects are incredibly important as the region faces water scarcity due to our ongoing drought and the impact of climate change becomes ever visible in our lives. Our region currently only captures about one-third of our stormwater runoff, allowing two-thirds of polluted water to run-off into the ocean. As the drought persists, it is imperative that we invest in these multi-benefit projects that effectively capture stormwater and provide quality water to our region.
The number and size of these projects vary throughout the county, with some districts hosting fewer projects than others. In Supervisorial District 4, only three major multi-benefit projects have been built, including the Dominguez Gap Wetlands. While various projects are in the design or planning phase, there has been a historic lack of investment in these projects by the County and other local cities.
As a coalition, we support a County stormwater program that centers on building and maintaining projects, such as the Dominguez Gap Wetlands. We are advocating for more stormwater capture projects to meet our water quality mandates and ensure our communities have reliable sources of water. We also want to prioritize equity by ensuring these projects are accessible to frontline communities experiencing poor air quality, a lack of green space and parks, and those in high flood areas. Long Beach environmental activists and other advocates will continue to educate ourselves and other community members on the importance of these multi-benefit projects by hosting more project tours, water literacy events, and working with local decision makers to ensure equity is at the forefront of these projects. To learn more about multi-benefit projects and our advocacy, visit the OurWaterLA website.