Museum Lobby

Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Consultant Declares Old Salt Lake Site Biologically Dead


Brief analysis

The evening of May 14, 2015, a small rain storm dropped .25 of an inch of rain on the waterfront, including the Old Salt Lake site where a power plant is currently located. The place got wet.

Photo taken on May 15 around noon, looking north - the rain storm passing:


Screenshot of city web site showing rainfall totals:


Photo taken on May 14 around 9am (before the rain storm) looking north at where the salt lake was:


Photo taken on May 15 around 1pm (after the rain storm) looking north at where the salt lake was:

Detail of May 14 photo before the rain storm:
Detail of May 15 photo showing the same spot got wetter:

An Environmental Scientist with a PhD hired by the power plant owners who want to build a new power plant on the Old Salt Lake site sends an email message (transcribed below) to the California Energy Commission declaring the formerly world-famous natural resource site is biologically dead without human intervention and therefore is technically not a "wetland" a position desired by the owners of the power plant. This email message is a remarkable example of corporate propaganda for several reasons. It is factually incorrect, it uses a shifting baseline rationale and it is very ironical. Perhaps so ironical that the underlying meaning of the email message by the environmental scientist is to actually make the point a more appropriate alternative use of the site is to grow food and store water. In which case, well done.

However, on the surface of it, the message declares the Old Salt Lake/Las Salinas/Engva site is not a wetlands. Biologically dead. Is it dead? Well, first of all, the very idea that Engva is dead, is now causing, what, a couple hundred of generations of people across mutiple cultures who exploited the natural resources of the site as a wetland to roll in their graves right now. Not even mentioning all the various previous forms of life that lived here.

Obviously, the place has experience "man-caused devastation" as Dr. William Wallace pointed out. What would Bertha Fuller say about this email message from an environmental scientist today?

Read the email message copied below. It tries to show "that the hydrology driving wetland features is artificially induced due to regional measures implemented to protect groundwater aquifers from salt water intrusion." and "Once the groundwater dewatering system is fully functioning, no wetland hydrology will exist in the constructed pit and former fuel tank area and it is anticipated that wetland hydrology indicators, hydric soils and wetland vegetation will disappear as the area reverts back to an upland."

The email message ignores the fact the Old Salt Lake site originally received its water from a large rain catchment area - an area which as been largely ravaged by corporate development, in large part, by the previous owners of the power plant site. Yet, the hydrology driving wetland features at the site today are, at least not entirely artificially induced. Assuming natural rainfall counts is a factor to measure water input in wetland hydrology, as the above photos taken by the author of this brief analysis on May 14th and 15th show - on May 14, 2015 rain fell on the Old Salt Lake site making it wetter than it was the previous day.

The underlying rationale of the position described in the email message is based on a shifting baseline. This is an analytical technique which frames a problem/solution matrix as originating with a level of complexity which pre-legitimizes the agenda of the sponsor of the analysis and enables the individuals doing the analysis, past and present, to avoid liability. This use of the technique creates even more pollution in the form of data noise.

It's the irony though. The consultant's email message discusses the sea water intrusion problem as if it is a separate problem to the project of building a new power plant. The sea water intrusion problem was initially caused by overpumping of the fresh water aquifer at the exact same Old Salt Lake site starting in 1888 by the Redondo Beach Company, then by Henry Huntington. The property owners were taking out one million gallons a day, then they increased the extraction of this natural resource to one and a half million gallons a day. The first indication of the sea water intrusion in the region actually appeared right at the Old Salt Lake site in 1914.

The reason owners of a power plant exist in Redondo Beach, as well as, the reason there is a City of Redondo Beach is because of the fresh water aquifer at the Old Salt Lake site. The water removed from this aquifer powered the early commercial growth of Los Angeles County in the railroad operations and was used by ships docking at Redondo which sailing across the world.

The consultant's email message is ironic on so many levels it is world-class nihilism, An environmental scientist with a PhD is working for a consulting company hired by the current corporation, an international energy corporation, operating a power plant at the Old Salt Lake site, is declaring that the water currently where the salt lake was will be gone and so will the biology of the place when the power plant dewatering pumping system works and the place is now not a wetlands because the sea water intrusion into the land caused by over pumping of the original fresh water aquifer there and the reason why corporations are there in the first place has resulted in the activity of government officials to artificially inject recycled fresh water east of the site to prevent further sea water intrusion and that is now the cause of the water where the salt lake was, so it is not a wetlands. Wow, just wow. A remarkable microcosm of the larger world in which we live.


_____ [Transcription From California Energy Commission web site ] _____

DOCKETED
Docket Number: 12-AFC-03
Project Title: Redondo Beach Energy Project
TN #: 204609
Document Title: Request to Revise CCC Wetland Determination at the Redondo Beach
Energy Project Site
Description: N/A
Filer: Cindy Salazar
Organization: CH2M HILL
Submitter Role: Applicant Consultant
Submission Date:
5/13/2015 1:16:20 PM
Docketed Date: 5/13/2015

From: Langis, Rene/BOS
To: Jonna Engel PhD (jengel@coastal.ca.gov)
Cc: Stephen O"Kane; Tracy Powell; Salamy, Jerry/SAC
Subject: Request to revise CCC wetland determination at the RBEP (12-AFC-03) site
Date: Monday, May 11, 2015 12:03:43 PM
Attachments: AttchmtA.WCBBP Injection Well Map.pdf

Dear Dr. Engel,
In their preliminary staff assessment report, the California Energy Commission determined that five
features located on the Redondo Beach Energy Project site were Coastal Commission defined
wetlands. This finding was based on information that the Coastal Commission provided following
the site assessment conducted on January 22, 2014 and wetland delineation datasheets provided by
AES. During that meeting you mentioned that you could revisit your conclusions if the project
proponent was able to show that the hydrology driving wetland features is artificially induced due
to regional measures implemented to protect groundwater aquifers from salt water intrusion.
During that meeting, Mr. Tracy Powell, environmental engineer for AES Southland, indicated that
these “wetlands” were being fed artificially by the West Basin Water District who has been using
injection wells in close proximity to the RBEP site since the 1960s to maintain a salt water intrusion
barrier and protect the inland aquifers. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (owners of
the barrier well system), have provided the attached map showing the location of the wells within a
1 mile radius of the RBEP (Attachment A).This injection well program has resulted in an artificially
high man made ground water table and created the need to install and operate a groundwater
dewatering system. This system has kept the groundwater table approximately three to five feet
below ground surface in the former fuel tank area until 2012 when AES Southland discovered that
the groundwater dewatering system was underperforming. In 2014, the rise in groundwater in the
areas surrounding several of the tank pads indicated that the two dewatering pumps installed on
the AES Redondo Beach property were operating well under design capacities. As expected, the
system’s pump failure allowed the groundwater table to rise to the ground surface thereby
providing wetland hydrology and the subsequent development of the hydric soils and wetland
vegetation conditions that you observed in the former fuel tank basins in January 2014. One of
these pumps was replaced in December 2014 and the other is scheduled to be installed in June
2015. Even with only one pump functioning water levels have already receded in the former tank
basins 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as in the constructed pit. Once the groundwater dewatering system is
fully functioning, no wetland hydrology will exist in the constructed pit and former fuel tank area
and it is anticipated that wetland hydrology indicators, hydric soils and wetland vegetation will
disappear as the area reverts back to an upland.

Based on the information provided above, we respectfully request your concurrence with our
determination that Coastal Commission wetlands are not present on the RBEP site due to artificially
induced hydrology.

AES Southland has compiled this information with the water agencies involved with the barrier well
system (WBWD, LAWP, and LA County), and will be happy to reach out to them should you have any
questions or need more information.
Respectfully submitted,

Rene Langis
René Langis, Ph.D.
Senior Environmental Scientist
D 1 802 462 3934
M 1 510 409 8194
CH2M

_____ [/Transcription ] _____