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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Robertson Letter

Wetlands Sentiments

The recent article on attorney George Mihlsten (“He Talks, Pols Listen,” May 12) failed to point out the main reason politicians listen to him. Mihlsten and his law firm, Latham & Watkins, are more lobbyists than lawyers. They funnel thousands of dollars to local and state politicians each year. Elected officials listen to them because they generously dole out the mother’s milk of politics to any ear that they can bend.

Mihlsten laments all the time being spent on environmental issues at Playa Vista. He doesn’t seem to care about the 100-percent increase in traffic on Lincoln Boulevard or the 28-percent increase in traffic on the San Diego Freeway that Playa Vista will generate. Nor does he seem to worry about the 10 tons of air pollution that the project will create each day.

Mihlsten claims that the Playa Vista project is completely unrelated to the wetlands. This is like claiming that the sun has nothing to do with the earth. The polluted runoff from the project will drain directly into the wetlands. This same urban runoff has fouled the waters of Santa Monica Bay and contributed to the destruction of our commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Mihlsten says the yet-to-be-approved Playa Vista Phase Two will determine the wetlands issues. Wrong again.

There are historical and legally defined wetlands which Phase One will destroy. In addition, the much ballyhooed wetland restoration will only take place if the developer gets full approval for their Phase Two Master Plan. If they do not get everything they have set forth in the Phase Two, there will be no deal for any wetland or publicly owned open space. Yet the developers, and the politicians at the end of their strings, tout the restoration as a done deal and a reason to support Phase One.

The Phase One approval is one reason why there is a new federal lawsuit pending against the Army Corps of Engineers (not to be confused with the recently decided and soon-to-be-appealed state lawsuit). The federal suit points out that the Corps ignored the concerns of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in giving Phase One permits to destroy wetlands. This suit was filed in January by attorney Steven Crandall representing the 60,000-member California Public Interest Research Group, Wetlands Action Network and the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust. Crandall was one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the $8 billion Exxon Valdez case.

BRUCE ROBERTSON

Director

Ballona Valley Preservation League

Los Angeles

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