Friends of the Richelieu. A river. A passion.

"Tout cedit pays est fort uny, remply de forests, vignes & noyers. Aucuns Chrestiens n'estoient encores parvenus jusques en cedit lieu, que nous, qui eusmes assez de peine à monter le riviere à la rame. " Samuel de Champlain

"All this region is very level and full of forests, vines and butternut trees. No Christian has ever visited this land and we had all the misery of the world trying to paddle the river upstream." Samuel de Champlain

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sauver une rivière, perdre son emploi

Photo: Lawrence K. Ho

Aux États-Unis, pour qu'un cours d'eau soit protégé légalement par le "Clean Water Act" de la pollution, il doit être reconnu officiellement comme un cours d'eau "navigable". Une jeune biologiste employée du U.S. Army Corps of Engineers avait la tâche (avec d'autres citoyens) d'évaluer si des projets de développement avaient le potentiel de nuire à des cours d'eau protégés. Quand elle se rendit compte que son employeur se préparait à passer des lois pour exempter la rivière Los Angeles River de la protection du CWA, elle divulga les plans à des firmes légales se spécialisant en environnement.

Puis elle s'informa sur l'Internet et se rendit compte de l'importance de la capacité naviguer une rivière pour la protéger. C'est elle qui partit le bal pour une expédition en canot-kayak. Quand son employeur vit ses photos sur l'Internet, il menaça de la suspendre pour 30 jours parce qu'elle mettait en doute l'autorité de son employeur. Après plusieurs mois de négociations, elle termina son emploi à l'Army Corps.

L'EPA concéda que l'expédition de Wylie confirmait la navigabilité du L.A. River et déclara tout son bassin versant protégé par le CWA.

Parfois, pour changer les choses, il faut se mouiller les pieds, et même défier certaines lois. Protéger toutes nos sources d'eau est une priorité et l'évidence même, opinion partagée par des gens "ordinaires", des experts et des scientifiques d'un océan à l'autre.
"A gamble on the river pays off

Kayaking down the L.A. River cost Heather Wylie her job but helped save the waterway. Heather Wylie was a key instigator of what must be the biggest, most important boating expedition ever undertaken on the Los Angeles River. With two dozen others in kayaks and canoes, she braved the river's shallow waters, paddling past garbage trucks at the water's edge, homeless bathers and other unexpected riparian obstacles.

That adventure cost Wylie, then a 29-year-old government biologist, her job — and $60,000 salary — with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But it helped save the L.A. River. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled the Los Angeles River "traditional navigable waters," entitled to the protections of the Clean Water Act. It was a huge victory for the legions of activists who have worked for decades to protect the river from developers and polluters.

As proof that the river is indeed navigable, the EPA cited in its official report the July 2008 Los Angeles River expedition organized by Wylie, George Wolfe and others. The Los Angeles River has always been a real river. The city was founded on its banks and today — in spite of its concrete walls — it's still the natural object at the center of L.A.'s existence. Unfortunately, for much of our history, we haven't treated our mother river with much respect. We've funneled most of its 51 miles into a big concrete channel and used it as a sewer.

Wylie arrived at the Corps of Engineers as a civilian employee in 2004. She was then a very young and idealistic environmental scientist. At the Corps of Engineers' Ventura field office, Wylie was one of the many civilian employees charged with determining whether development projects would harm protected waterways.

So when she learned the corps was preparing to adopt new regulations that would have stripped much of the L.A. River watershed of Clean Water Act protections, she leaked those plans to some of the nation's top environmental law firms. When she figured out the importance of "navigability" to the L.A. River's future, she scoured the Internet until she found a video of George Wolfe and she tracked him down.

Later, corps officials found two Internet images of Wylie on the river. They threatened to suspend her for 30 days, saying the expedition "undermined the corps' authority." "I got treated as some kind of disloyal traitor," she said. At the same time, Wylie's leaked documents reached Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and other leaders. Eventually, the EPA invoked its authority to supplant the corps as the agency that would determine whether the L.A. River was protected under the Clean Water Act.

After several months of negotiations, Wylie and the corps reached a settlement and she left the agency. Neither side admitted doing anything wrong.

The EPA's finding last week (first week of July) also applies to all the streams and channels that flow into the L.A. River, helping preserve a vast watershed for future generations, though much work remains to be done. "I lost my job," said Wylie, now a stay-at-home mom with a newborn. "But I was happy to sacrifice if it was going to save the river."

Sometimes, to change things, you have be willing to get your feet wet. And sometimes you have to break the rules."

Excerpts from article written by Hector Tobar published in The Los Angeles Times here:,0,2145175.column

Well, too bad she had to loose her job to prove the obvious: nothing is more important than protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. That opinion is shared by regular people, scientists and experts from coast to coast.

" 'What the hell are we going to do with the Clean Water Act?' " says Pat Parenteau, a legal expert in watersheds and wetlands at the Vermont Law School. "Because right now, water law is a total mess." Source:

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