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Whale of a Welcome

Long Beach Aquarium's Huge Model Is Electric Blue

June 25, 1998|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Her name is Edi. She's a new mom who keeps her strapping 600-pound baby boy nearby at all times.

She's blue, 88 feet long and the newest product of Edison International, better known for electricity.

Edi is the detailed, life-size polyurethane and fiberglass sculpture of a blue whale, the world's largest mammal, that hangs from the ceiling of the three-story lobby of the new Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific.

Edison International donated $350,000 to build Edi and her 21-foot-long calf--called Edison. Get it?

They are the most accurate models ever produced of the blue whale, said Kenneth Yates, vice president of husbandry and facilities at the newly opened aquarium. The sculptures were built by Larson Co. of Tucson.

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Edison also aided the aquarium's marketing push by tucking aquarium literature into its monthly utility customer bills, said aquarium spokeswoman Michele Nachum.

Not surprisingly, the aquarium is turning to Southern California Edison for its substantial electricity needs--the attraction's 2,750 light fixtures would be enough to light 140 two-bedroom homes--rather than to one of the new electricity marketeers who have been able to operate in Edison territory since March 31.

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"Edison has been a nice friend of the aquarium," Nachum said.

Another good pal is oil giant Atlantic Richfield Co., which pumped in $1 million to sponsor the aquarium's 350,000-gallon Tropical Reef, the aquarium's largest habitat.

The Arco grant also will support educational programs focusing on coral reef habitat conservation and preservation.

The Aquarium of the Pacific's other $1-million donors are Honda and Sparkletts.

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Nearly 500 utility workers marched in front of the California Public Utilities Commission's downtown Los Angeles offices Saturday to protest the proposed deregulation of California's natural gas industry. The demonstrators contend that consumers would pay more, safety would be jeopardized and utility workers would lose their jobs.

The protest march followed a half-day summit-cum-rally on gas deregulation that drew union members from around the state as well as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gray Davis and state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles).

The politicians promised to take a close look at the PUC staff's proposal.

The natural gas deregulation report, written by PUC staff and released in January, explores options for "unbundling" various retail services and markets that are now controlled by a few utilities, including Southern California Gas, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric.

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The analysis of how to redesign the natural gas industry recommends opening the retail market to competition as a way to lower prices, while protecting consumers and maintaining supply reliability and customer safety.

Nancy Rivera Brooks can be reached by e-mail at nancy.rivera.brooks@latimes.com or by fax at (213) 237-7836.

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