Part 2: The plan
By Galen Patterson
The Lake Baldwin project is one of several projects included in what is called an “enhanced watershed management plan,” according to management analyst in the Public Works department for the city of Sierra Madre, James Carlson.
The larger plan involves a good portion of the northern San Gabriel Valley, expanding to include Arcadia, Monrovia, Sierra Madre, Duarte, Bradbury and smaller unincorporated pockets in the area. For three years, Carlson has been working on a project to improve water quality in the region. He says that this project is primarily aimed at improving a specific type of water quality: storm water.
Storm water is the collection of excess water produced by things like rain and in colder climates, snow melt. This type of collected water tends to move around, based on the geography of the region, before settling in a low point, hence the hydrological design of urban sprawl and the need for watersheds.
Storm water tends to pick up and move sediment, minerals, including invisible pieces of metal and pollutants, from the many spills and leaks on the roads that areas with a high population will create. However, Carlson’s plan takes that into account.
Famous French author Jules Verne once wrote “nature’s creative power is far beyond man’s instinct for destruction.” In this case, wetlands may be the solution to the problem.
Wetlands are areas of land saturated with water, like a marsh or swamp. According to the Ecological Society of America (www.esa.org), wetlands can remove 20-60 percent of metals in water while trapping and retaining 80-90 percent of sediment from runoff (excess) water, and eliminate 70-90 percent of entering nitrogen.
While nitrogen is essential to plant growth, having too much of it is deadly to plants. One of the biggest ways nitrogen is introduced into the environment is through fertilizer and sewage, both of which often come into contact with storm water.
The current plan involves installing wetland ponds and settling basins North of Baldwin Lake, along the Arcadia wash. The idea is to capture water from a wide area, channel it into a natural filter, where it is then cleaned and a portion of which will find its way down to the aquifer (a layer of water-holding rock below the surface), where it is drawn and used in various ways, including drinking water. Meanwhile, another portion of the water would travel down a man-made stream from the proposed wetlands and feed directly into Lake Baldwin, restoring life to the once-glamorous pond.
An important point of the plan is that the water usage is entirely natural, and would provide sorely needed water to a local landmark, but the plan is not designed to fill Lake Baldwin. It still needs to be functional as a watershed for the surrounding area.
“This idea for this project is still a little young, and it still doesn’t have a full approval, but it is certainly one we have been most excited about,” said Carlson.
Read Related: What’s Going On With Arcadia’s Lake Baldwin? Part 1
The project is estimated to cost between 5 and $6 million. Plenty of entities have a vested interest in seeing this plan proceed. Los Angeles County actually owns the land, the Arboretum Foundation helps care for it, and the surrounding communities would all directly benefit from it. All of these, along with potential grants, are possible avenues of funding.
Last October, a group of envoys from Sierra Madre and Arcadia traveled to Washington D.C. to seek out support and funding for the Lake Baldwin restoration project. Among them were then-Mayor Peter Amundson, City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto, and Carlson.
They spoke with California senators and representatives, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Army Corps of Engineers and more. “I don’t think we were successful,” said Carlson, “there’s going to be a lot of searching for financing for this project that we anticipate.”
Currently, the plan has been submitted to the regional water quality board. Carlson says the group remains hopeful that it will be approved by September.
More on this story next week.