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Threat of Veto Pulls Plug on Plans to Clean Polluted Lake

September 13, 1987|ALAN C. MILLER | Times Staff Writer

Faced with the prospect of a second gubernatorial veto, Assemblyman David Elder has temporarily shelved his two-year legislative effort to clean up the polluted 100-acre Harbor Lake.

But the Long Beach Democrat vowed to revive the measure when the Legislature returns from its recess next January. Its prospects, however, remain murky.

"It's been very, very difficult," Elder said last week. "It's been quite frustrating."

Elder's bill would allow the state Coastal Conservancy to spend up to $500,000 in state bond funds to remove pollution and restore marshland in Harbor Lake. This might include new filtration and circulation systems to keep the lake clean and fountains to aerate it.

Owned by Los Angeles

The lake, which is owned by the City of Los Angeles, is the centerpiece of Harbor Regional Park, a 231-acre recreation and wildlife area south of Pacific Coast Highway and west of the Harbor Freeway.

The bill would place Harbor Lake within the state coastal zone to allow the Coastal Conservancy to undertake necessary studies and improvements. The Oakland-based conservancy was established by the Legislature to preserve coastal open space.

A similar cleanup plan was passed by the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian, who said the City of Los Angeles should pay for the lake improvements.

Embroiled in Politics

The restoration plan had become embroiled in the gubernatorial contest between Deukmejian and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, his Democratic opponent. During the 1986 campaign, Republican legislators questioned why the state was being asked to restore a city-owned property when Bradley was boasting about his prudent fiscal management of the city.

Elder said he resubmitted the cleanup plan this year because he believed Deukmejian's veto was the result of "a misunderstanding." Specifically, Elder said the governor was not aware that the state would bring expertise to the scientifically complex freshwater cleanup that the city and Port of Los Angeles lack.

In addition, Elder said the city had already spent about $300,000 in an attempt to improve the lake's condition.

Nevertheless, Elder said he withdrew the bill from active consideration last week after learning that Deukmejian was prepared to veto it again. A veto would prevent Elder from resubmitting the bill until the next legislative session in 1989.

Elder said he planned to meet with others, including the Coastal Conservancy and City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, during the recess to seek a cleanup proposal that Deukmejian would sign.

"We have a three-month period when we're going to try to put the people together who have concerns (about the lake) and develop a plan to remove the governor's opposition," Elder said.

Elder already had revived the bill once this year through legislative maneuvering. It was killed in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee when amendments unrelated to Harbor Lake were added to it. Elder kept it afloat by in turn amending the cleanup proposal to another bill. When that bill's initial provisions were removed, only the Harbor Lake proposal remained.

The first step in the complex cleanup will be to determine the nature of the lake's problems, Elder said. Elevated levels of toxic chemicals were detected in the lake four years ago. State officials have been studying whether South Bay storm drains are the source of the pollution. Elder said he also is concerned about a growing mosquito problem.

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