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The Importance of a Long Range Vision of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council

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The field of watershed management is a rapidly evolving area in which the participants are recognizing that sound tools for managing people and institutions are just as important as the tools for managing the technical aspects of a problem. In fact, the call for abstracts for this conference acknowledged: “It is more important than ever to ensure that the best possible management, information and technology options are being implemented.” The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council has developed a comprehensive vision statement which describes how the watershed will look in the future because they believe it is a critical step in their ability to manage the watershed. A wide variety of stakeholders all agreed that a clear picture of where they were going was paramount if their efforts were to be successful.

This paper describes the history of the Council, its membership, the process they went through to develop their vision, and the steps they've taken towards implementation. It emphasizes the importance of the Council's role as a facilitator of multiple stakeholders within the watershed, rather than the creation of a new organization. It describes the critical role that regular Council meetings play in developing trust among stakeholders, educating stakeholders from a wide political and technical background about technical issues, and building champions within governmental and other organizations about the need for watershed management. It stresses the need for consideration of management tools such as consensus building, teamwork, and conflict resolution, as well as good old-fashioned patience and long-term commitment from individual's as well as organizations.

As a result of the Council's vision statement, the importance of watershed management becomes clear. For example, if stakeholders agree they want concrete removed from urban streams, they must acknowledge that the way urbanization in the watershed occurs must be addressed. The Council acknowledges that the impacts of urbanization will take substantial time to reverse. Development of the watershed has occurred over the past 150 years, and it may take decades to implement desired changes. In recognition of this time-scale, the Council's vision statement describes in detail the improvements that will be made in the watershed by the year 2025. A long range vision is critical because it allows agencies who typically do long range planning (such as water suppliers and agencies who install capital infrastructure such as flood control and transportation) to participate in a cooperative dialog about how to fold in a new vision to their traditional planning processes.

In a field which has been dominated by technical solutions such as wastewater treatment plants and concrete flood control facilities, civil engineers have been looked to for the answers. As leaders in the field, it is the civil engineers that are acknowledging that other disciplines, including the social sciences, will be needed to adequately address the issues of watershed management. This paper provides a case study of engineers working together with stakeholders from a diverse background to tackle the myriad of technical and social problems in this very complex urban watershed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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