Orange County CA:
Obtaining Congressional Approvals for Environmental Infrastructure
Aliso Creek Trailhead
Aliso Creek is a mostly urban stream running 19 miles from Cleveland National Forest to the ocean. It’s a destabilized, polluted watershed. There’s no consensus on how to fix erosion undermining utilities, or the fouling of habitat and waters harmful to aquatic life and human health.
Below: “Problem” fixed…then concrete channel+drains+run-off = big problems.
Drop-structure below was designed to fight erosion, but worsened it, and to help clean water, though it didn’t. One idea was to replace large structures like this with smaller ones designed to mimic historic functions (and appear natural), theoretically to help with erosion control, wetlands restoration, aquatic life and clean-up efforts.
The interests of a resort operator on the ocean, weary of sewage spills and other nearby noxious conditions, were aligned with the public interest, as the County saw it, in stabilizing, cleaning up and restoring the watershed. Montage Resort & Spa paid for a sustained lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., that I directed, for a novel joint EPA-Army Corps project. It was among Orange County’s highest public project priorities.
Above: Ben Brown’s golf course at The Ranch, just inland of the ocean. Bridge over creek in foreground.
Below: Aliso Creek bridge, Coast Highway, looking to Aliso Creek County Beach.
Below: View of county beach from blufftop trail at Montage Resort & Spa.
The SUPER project — for stabilization, utility protection and environmental restoration — was approved by Congress. It was a descriptive name though one that begged for, and received, criticism, somewhat deserved. Millions were appropriated for design, permit-readiness, and construction; since then momentum has slowed and progress again seems elusive owing to controversy over particular project elements. An imperfect project can be improved but an old political saw says: best can be the enemy of good.