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Army Corps of Engineers to Resume Work in Sepulveda Basin This Week

A Corps biologist will oversee use of a wood chipper, excavator and backhoe, according to a statement.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to "resume limited vegetation management" this week at a wildlife area where earlier tree bulldozing hit a hornet's nest of opposition, a spokesman said Saturday.

Wildlife advocates will monitor the resumed work, which comes after the Army met with them to plan further restoration in the cleared area of flood control basin behind the Sepulveda Dam.

A Corps biologist will oversee use of a wood chipper, excavator and backhoe as the Army "will convert the area to a more-valuable and sustainable habitat that will improve flood management operations and enhance public safety," according to an Army statement issued Saturday.

A San Fernando Valley Audubon Society birdwatcher said she was "hopeful" that recent discussions with the Army have resulted in a good plan to salvage remaining woodlands and mitigate damage.

"We don't know to what extent their original plan, which was disastrous, will be changed," Audubon member Muriel Kotin told City News Service. "Hopefully, enough to avoid further harm."

The Army said erosion control measures must be installed on Haskell Creek inside the flood control basin. "Crews will install jute netting and straw wattles along both banks of the creek near the confluence with the Los Angeles River," the Corps said in its announcement.

It said its vegetation management plan calls for the removal of dead and non-native trees, "selective treatment to prevent their re-emergence," and planting native vegetation suited for "operations and maintenance of flood risk management infrastructure."

The Army owns Sepulveda Basin and uses it to hold flood water when heavy rains swell the Los Angeles River. Several city parks and golf courses sit in the flood plain, as well as the wildlife preserve that was scraped by the Army in December.

Last January, bird advocates were infuriated when they discovered that a 43-acre patch of wildlife sanctuary next to Sepulveda Dam had been flattened. The Corps of Engineers had filed an environmental plan to rehabilitate the forested patch of land that occasionally gets flooded by the adjacent Los Angeles River when the Army closes flood gates, but local birdlovers and water pollution officials had not seen it.

The Army specified that illegal camping, drug-dealing and prostitution was occurring in the former dense forest glade, just a few blocks from Sepulveda Boulevard. But Los Angeles police had reported no such crimes, the birdlovers said.

The clearance plan had not been seen in advance by regulators at the regional branch of the California State Water Quality Control Board, which regulates water pollution issues. The board has since demanded that the Army answer 26 points raised by the state.

The Army said in its statement that it would demonstrate the planned project to reporters at an event Tuesday morning at the site, just west of the San Diego Freeway and south of Burbank Boulevard.

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