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Cong. Solis' Bill To Study Making Lower L.A. River & San Gabriel River Part of Nat'l Park System Not Marked Up July 10; Hearing May Take Place Before August Recess

We post bill text & co-sponsors, plus subcommittee statement of Nat'l Park Service official


(July 10, 2002) -- The House Committee on Resources was supposed to "mark up" (make possible changes to) a proposed bill requiring a federal study and report to House and Senate committees on the suitability and feasibility of establishing lower portions of L.A. river (and its tributaries below confluence with the Arroyo Seco) and San Gabriel rivers as part of the National Park System.

But it didn't happen.

H.R. 2534 didn't appear on the Committee's list of bills to be heard and marked up today.

A staffer in the office of bill author Rep. Hilda Solis (D., South San Gabriel Valley) told LBReport.com the Committee appeared to be dealing with controversial measures first and bumped other items. The staffer said the Committee told Solis' office to expect H.R. 2534 to be marked up before the August recess.

H.R. 2534 would require the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on establishing the following areas collectively as a unit of the National Park System: (1) The lower L.A. River and its tributaries below the confluence of the Arroyo Seco; (2) The San Gabriel River and its tributaries in L.A. and Orange Counties and (3) the San Gabriel Mountains within the territory of the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy [defined in portion of CA Resources Code, specified below].

Within three years, the report's findings, conclusions, and recommendations would be submitted to the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the House Committee on Resources.

In a previously issued media release, Congresswoman Solis said, "The Park Service designation could provide the framework for the future of our regionís rivers and could eventually provide recreational and environmental opportunities for more than two million residents, some of who are the poorest of our society and who breathe polluted air and live next to superhighways. I am hopeful that this bill will serve as the first step in redefining the San Gabriel Valley and exploring ways that we can protect and revitalize our natural resources."

Rep. Solis introduced the bill July, 2001 and it was referred to the House Committee on Resources and assigned to its subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands. On June 13, 2002, the subcommittee heard the bill and it was set to be "marked up" (changes made before advancing) today by the full Committee, after which it could be sent to the House floor.

During a June 13 hearing by the Resource Committee's subcommittee on Nat'l Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, an official of the Nat'l Park Service (Dept. of the Interior) delivered a statement (posted in its entirety below) stating that the Department does not oppose H.R. 2534, but the Department didn't request additional funding for the study in FY 2003 and believes "any funding requested should be directed towards completing previously authorized studies." The statement continued:

Presently, there are 37 studies pending, of which we expect to transmit 7 to Congress by the end of 2002. To meet the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we must continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System. Thus, we have concerns about adding new funding requirements for new park units, national trails, wild and scenic rivers or heritage areas at the same time that we are trying to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog...

In addition to H.R. 2534, Congressman Adam Schiff has introduced H.R. 2715, a bill to evaluate and study the suitability and feasibility of establishing the Rim of the Valley Corridor as a unit of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. These bills affect nearly adjacent territories in the Los Angeles basin and affect nearly identical large constituencies. As any study would include a public involvement component, combining the planning effort to evaluate both areas would not only be less confusing to the public but also more cost-effective for the government. Since a study of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers is estimated to cost approximately $500,000, there could be considerable efficiencies gained by combining and narrowing the focus of these two proposed studies.

In the public interest, LBReport.com posts below: (1) H.R. 2534 text; (2) List of bill co-sponsors; and (3) Statement by Nat'l Park Service re H.R. 2534 in subcommittee on Nat'l Parks, Rec. & Public Lands; (4) Media Release Statement by Cong. Solis (following June 13 subcommittee hearing)

H.R. 2534 text

Lower Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River Watersheds Study Act of 2001 (Introduced in House)

107th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 2534

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 17, 2001

Ms. SOLIS (for herself and Mr. SCHIFF) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Resources


A BILL

To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of the Lower Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River watersheds in the State of California, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Lower Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River Watersheds Study Act of 2001'.

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION OF STUDY.

(a) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of the Interior (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the `Secretary') shall conduct a study of the suitability and feasibility of establishing the following areas collectively as a unit of the National Park System:

(1) The Lower Los Angeles River and its tributaries below the confluence of the Arroyo Seco.

(2) The San Gabriel River and its tributaries in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California.

(3) The San Gabriel Mountains within the territory of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (as defined in section 32603(c)(1)(C) of the State of California Public Resource Code).

[LBReport.com note: CA Pub. Res. Code ß 32603...(c) (1) "Territory" means the territory of the conservancy that consists of those portions of Los Angeles County and Orange County located within the San Gabriel River and its tributaries, the lower Los Angeles River and its tributaries, and the San Gabriel Mountains, including, without limitation, all of the following:...(C) The San Gabriel Mountains, including the Foothills Mountains Conservancy and the Puente Hills and San Jose Hills area, except any land area within the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy as described in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 33100) and Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 33200) of Division 23.]

(b) STUDY CONDUCT AND COMPLETION- Section 8(c) of Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-5(c)) shall apply to the conduct and completion of the study required by this section.

(c) CONSULTATION WITH STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS- In conducting the study authorized by this Act, the Secretary shall consult with the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and other appropriate State and local governmental entities.

SEC. 3. REPORT.

Not later than 3 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives a report on the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the study required by this Act.

Co-Sponsors

COSPONSORS (22), ALPHABETICAL:

Rep Baca, Joe - 7/18/2001
Rep Berman, Howard L. - 7/18/2001
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. - 7/18/2001
Rep Davis, Susan A. - 7/18/2001
Rep Dreier, David - 7/30/2001
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. - 7/18/2001
Rep Farr, Sam - 7/18/2001
Rep Gonzalez, Charles A. - 7/18/2001
Rep Honda, Michael M. - 7/18/2001
Rep Lee, Barbara - 7/18/2001
Rep Lofgren, Zoe - 7/18/2001
Rep Matsui, Robert T. - 7/18/2001
Rep Millender-McDonald, Juanita - 7/18/2001
Rep Napolitano, Grace F. - 7/18/2001
Rep Olver, John W. - 7/30/2001
Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille - 7/18/2001
Rep Schiff, Adam B. - 7/17/2001
Rep Sherman, Brad - 7/18/2001
Rep Thompson, Mike - 7/18/2001
Rep Udall, Mark - 7/18/2001
Rep Watson, Diane E. - 7/18/2001
Rep Waxman, Henry A. - 7/18/2001

June 13, 2002 Subcommittee Statement by Nat'l Park Service re H.R. 2534

STATEMENT OF KATHERINE STEVENSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF CULTURAL RESOURCE, STEWARDSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 2534 TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY OF THE LOWER LOS ANGELES RIVER AND SAN GABRIEL RIVER WATERSHEDS IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

June 13, 2002

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Departmentís views on this bill to study the lower Los Angeles River and San Gabriel watersheds in the Los Angeles Basin.

The Department does not oppose the bill. However, the Department did not request additional funding for this study in Fiscal Years 2003. We believe that any funding requested should be directed towards completing previously authorized studies. Presently, there are 37 studies pending, of which we expect to transmit 7 to Congress by the end of 2002. To meet the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we must continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System. Thus, we have concerns about adding new funding requirements for new park units, national trails, wild and scenic rivers or heritage areas at the same time that we are trying to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog. As such, the Department will identify all acquisition, one-time and operational costs of the proposed site. At this time, those costs are unknown.

In addition to H.R. 2534, Congressman Adam Schiff has introduced H.R. 2715, a bill to evaluate and study the suitability and feasibility of establishing the Rim of the Valley Corridor as a unit of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. These bills affect nearly adjacent territories in the Los Angeles basin and affect nearly identical large constituencies. As any study would include a public involvement component, combining the planning effort to evaluate both areas would not only be less confusing to the public but also more cost-effective for the government. Since a study of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers is estimated to cost approximately $500,000, there could be considerable efficiencies gained by combining and narrowing the focus of these two proposed studies.

While some familiar with the Lower Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River watersheds may think of them as concrete-lined ditches, the rivers provide an important opportunity for low-impact recreation for many urban residents in adjacent communities. Several successful efforts have already been undertaken to provide bikeways and hiking areas along the riverís banks. Additionally, small tracts of green space have been acquired to provide outdoor recreation opportunities in the form of playgrounds for children, picnic areas, benches for rest and respite from the urban environment and for areas to walk and bicycle. Many areas have been replanted with a variety of native vegetation to enhance the local environment.

This study will assess habitat quality, access to urban open space, low-impact recreation and educational uses, wildlife and habitat restoration and protection and watershed improvements along the Los Angeles and San Gabriel watersheds as well as the Valley of the Rim corridor surrounding the San Fernando and La Crescenta Valleys. This latter corridor consists of portions of the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susanna Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills and the connector to Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests.

The National Park Service has some familiarity with the region and these watersheds. Our National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program continues to have interaction with communities along the Los Angeles River and has provided technical assistance for outdoor recreation potential. Additionally, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area provides protection for 153,750 acres while providing recreational opportunities for approximately 530,000 visitors annually.

The watershed of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers contains important natural resources, which are disappearing in Los Angeles County. The continuous greenbelt corridors serve as habitat for breeding, feeding, resting or migrating birds and mammals, while allowing migration to take place around and amongst the urban areas. The higher reaches of the watershed also contain significant examples of rock outcroppings, as well as native vegetation.

This area has a rich cultural heritage, which is evident by the approximately 9 properties within the boundaries of the study area on the National List of Historic Places and 96 properties on the state register of historic places. These properties weave a rich tapestry of the cultural history of the area and include Mission San Gabriel Archangel, the mission founded in 1771 by the Spanish missionaries who were moving up the coast of California; Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana, founded in 1797; Merced Theatre, the first building built expressly for theatrical purposes in Los Angeles, dating back to 1870; Lummis House, constructed by Charles F. Lummis, an author, editor, poet, athlete, librarian, historian and archeologist during his life from 1859-1928; Los Encinos State Historic Park, used as a headquarters by the Franciscan padres before they built Mission San Fernando; Angeles Flight Railway, which was an incline railway built in 1901 to carry residents up the hill from the downtown shopping district; and Alvarado Terrace Historic District, which includes 12 buildings displaying prime examples of architecture and social history from 1900-1924.

The Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River watershed is adjacent to the Angeles National Forest and contains state, county and local parks within. The recreational experience would be heightened by the establishment of trail connections and linkages for the urban populations of Los Angeles, as well as for visitors. These connections would also allow users to leave the populated areas and connect to the prime natural areas in the region. These trails would be used for hiking, mountain biking, nature study and bird watching.

A study will outline public-private partnerships, which are core to preserving large tracts of open space such as are included in this study. The San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) was established as an independent State agency within the Resources Agency of the State of California in 1999. It was established to preserve urban space and habitats in order to provide for low-impact recreation and educational uses, wildlife and habitat restoration and protection and watershed improvements. The RMC has brought diverse groups together to work in partnership to protect the precious resources within these two watersheds.

Any study that is undertaken along the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers will involve extensive public meetings, extended comment periods and more complex analyses because issues and options in a large, urban area with such a diverse and extensive group of stakeholders at all levels of government would be considered.

This concludes my testimony. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this issue and I would be willing to answer any questions you may have on this issue.

In a prepared release prior today's events, Cong. Solis said:

Media released statement by Cong. Solis following June 13 subcommittee hearing

(June 13) "The Park Service designation could provide the framework for the future of our regionís rivers and could eventually provide recreational and environmental opportunities for more than two million residents, some of who are the poorest of our society and who breathe polluted air and live next to superhighways. I am hopeful that this bill will serve as the first step in redefining the San Gabriel Valley and exploring ways that we can protect and revitalize our natural resources."

"Open and green space is a precious commodity in my community; it needs to be protected and preserved, and more should be added as it becomes available. If recreational opportunities and natural resources are ignored in the San Gabriel Valley, our children will grow up at greater risk of health problems, completely surrounded by superhighways and concrete buildings."

"This study could be the foundation for a park that will follow the lead of other urban parks and provide working families in my community with the environmental and recreational opportunities that over-development often prevents. By protecting our past, we can also help to preserve the future. The Lower Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River and San Gabriel Mountains have many historically and nationally significant areas that deserve the protection of the National Park Service."


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