The Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy Network

March 06, 2017 to March 10, 2017

In March 2017, a group of ELEEP fellows traveled to California to learn about various climate change adaptation methods, as well as approaches for managing water scarcity. The group met a number of prominent leaders and experts, took part in planned and implemented initiatives, and discussed present and future concerns and possibilities.

To begin the first day of the ELEEP California Study Tour, Adam Smith, of the Southern California Edison (SCE) electric services company presented the SCE adaptation and mitigation strat-egies. SCE delivers electricity to 15 million people and their main concerns are heat storms, which heavily affect their power grids, along with sea level rise, landslides and flooding, which threaten substations. We also met with SCE Senior Vice President Caroline Choi. At the Orange County Water District (OCWD) wastewater treatment facility, Sandy Scott-Roberts, Principal Engineer and Program Manager, gave a presentation of their groundwater basin replenishment strategy, as well as a tour of the premises and the treatment plant where sewage water is turned into drinkable water. The groundwater replenishment system (GWRS) has been in operation since 2008 and produces approximately 379 million liters per day (100 million gallons per day, 112 000 acre-feet per year). The last stop for the day was at LACI, Los Angeles Cleantech Incu-bator. Ben Stapleton, Chief Partnerships Officer of LACI, gave a tour of the premises and a presentation of the organization which aims to help advance startups focusing on clean technol-ogy via coaching, mentoring, providing office spaces as well as expert and capital networking.

On the second day we visited AltaSea - presented by Shawn Jensen, Manager of Government Funding and Program Partnerships, and Robin Aube, Development Manager. AltaSea is located at the Port of Los Angeles and their goal is to create a more sustainable ocean by bringing to-gether science, business, education and community, and by creating a hub for ocean-related solutions. Later, Kat Janowicz of 3COTECH, gave a tour of San Pedro, during which she presented some of the sights as well as reconstruction projects, such as the Thomas Vincent Bridge and the replacement of Gerald Desmond Bridg. During lunch time the group visited the Port of Long Beach (POLB), the second busiest sea-port in the US. Christine Houston, Manager of Sustainable Practices, presented the environmental and sustainability strategy, together with experts from the environmental planning division: Renee Moilanen, James Vernon, Morgan Caswell, and Justin Leudy. Some focus areas include climate action, drought and coastal resilience, air quality, and a community grant program. POLB aims to reduce the negative impacts of the port’s op-erations through The Green Port Policy adopted in January 2005. This policy sets an environ-mental framework and guidelines for decision makers. At Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Dr. Cris Liban presented the LA Metro’s sustainability program, as well as their climate change and adaptation efforts. Andrina Dominguez then gave an overview of their resiliency indicator framework which helps address climate change. The indica-tors showcase the progress of LA Metro’s climate management efforts and measure the effec-tiveness of the various approaches. Candace Lee presented the Metro Rail Design criteria and the environmental and climate resiliency considerations when developing and constructing new facilities. The extension of the Metro Purple Line and its sustainability plan were then presented by Alexander Cantwell. The extension, which includes six new stations in LA and one in Beverly Hills, will connect West Los Angeles to the rail network and improve mobility for the inhabitants of Los Angeles County. The ELEEP group then took part of The Union Station Sustainability Tour, led by Matthew V. Johnson. It included a presentation of the Union Station which will be completely rebuilt to optimize transit and improve connectivity, as well as a tour of the old prem-ises which date back to 1939. During dinner that evening, the group was honored by the pres-ence of Ms. Steinbrenner of the German Consulate.

The study tour then brought the group to Carlsbad, with the first stop being the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Jessica Jones, Director of Communications, gave a tour of the plant, which pro-duces about 190 million liters of water per day (50 million gallon per day, 56 000 acre-feet per year). After a four step procedure including a pre- and secondary treatment, reverse osmosis, and post treatment, the water is transported to the product water tanks and is ready for con-sumption. At the City of Carlsbad, Laura Engeman and Carl Stiehl presented the climate change issues that they are facing in the region, e.g., coastal flooding and sea level rise, how they are adapting to the changes, and their local coastal program planning. In the afternoon, Evyan Sloan, project manager at California State Coastal Conservancy, presented the Cardiff Beach Living Shoreline Project. The project includes a plan for beach dune restoration which will restore habitats as well as provide adaptation for climate change and decrease vulnerability.

The following day, back in Los Angeles Melissa von Mayrhauser, with The River Project, and Stephen Mejia, of the Friends of the Los Angeles River organization, gave a tour of Panorama City and the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk. During peak flow, the LA River carries about 5 million liters of water per second out to the Pacific Ocean. Today, urban runoff from lower and middle portions of the basin has left the water quality of the LA River impaired. The River Project aims to revitalize the LA River through various projects, such as restoring parts of the river to help with water infiltration, creating more green spaces for the community and improving the relationship between LA’s inhabitants and the river. At the County of Los Angeles Sustainability Office, Gary Gero, Chief Sustainability Officer, together with Lauren Faber O’Connor and Liz Crosson, presented the goals of the sustainability office and the Sustainable City pLAn. The main efforts of the pLAn are focused on the advancement of three dimensions: a cleaner environment, stronger economy and commitment to equity. Focus within these dimensions lies on improving public health, transport, and finding strategies for decreasing urban heat islands. Lastly, at the City of Santa Monica, Bruce Reznik and Gil Borboa presented their efforts that focus on a variety of sustainability issues, water scarcity being one of them, as well as the goal to be carbon neutral by 2030. The group received a tour of Santa Monica’s Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) down by Santa Monica Pier. At SMURRF, which is a joint project of the City of Los Angeles and the City of Santa Monica, urban runoff is harvested and treated for non-potable reuse, mainly for reuse in landscape irrigation.

In the morning of our last day of the California study tour the group visited Green Alleys, an initiative of the Trust for Public Land (TPL). Their goal is to create parks, protect land for people and create healthy and livable communities. Diane Silva of TPL showed us how safe and green community spaces are created out of dusty and concreted corridors. The Green Alleys help to reduce the heat island effect, they capture and filter storm water runoff, and the native and planted drought tolerant plants create an inviting atmosphere. Ms. Silva also showed the group Watts Serenity Park, which opened in January 2015. The park is a community project and in-cludes a playground, outdoor fitness equipment and a skate park. Lastly, we visited the South Los Angeles Wetland Park, opened in 2012. The wetland park is a project which prevents flood-ing and treats urban runoff while at the same time creating a communal green space. The site was previously a bus yard; today it can treat up to 2.5 million liters of polluted urban runoff water per day.


The pre-study tour webinar is available for viewing below.


California, USA
Event type: