September 20, 2021

TCWC Seeks Alternatives to Toxic Spraying in Canyon


By Flavia Potenza

About 35 people, concerned about CalTrans spraying herbicide alongside Topanga Canyon Blvd. in lower Topanga, gathered at the Mountain Mermaid on May 24 at the monthly Topanga Creek Watershed Committee (TCWC) meeting.

Among those attending were representatives of State Sen. Fran Pavley, State Assemblymember Julia Brownley, 60AD Assemblymember Betsey Butler, and candidate for the redrawn 50 Assembly District that serves Topanga, and Tim Pershing, Field Deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

TCWC president Ben Allanoff kept the agenda straightforward and focused.

“The objective of this meeting is to get close to our goal of a pesticide-free watershed,” he began and moved into a brief history of TCWC, explaining that about 10 years ago, an informal agreement was reached between the Topanga community and CalTrans to manually clear roadside areas of State Route 27, e.g., Topanga Canyon Boulevard, instead of using herbicides.

However, on April 29, spraying began in lower Topanga. People were alarmed to see the roadside anise plants dying and contacted TCWC.

“The recent history is that people called me about the spraying,” said Allanoff. “When I called around, nobody knew or took responsibility.”

When he contacted Susan Nissman, Sr. Field Deputy to Yaroslavsky, she immediately contacted CalTrans, Sen. Pavley and Assemblywoman Brownley.

On Sunday, May 20, Julie and Joseph Rosendo discovered the trucks at Highvale spraying the Boulevard again.

Out of town on a family emergency, Nissman kept Allanoff informed from her iPhone, writing: “Caltrans is still working on their end to formalize the steps we agreed to with both Senator Pavley and Assemblymember Brownley’s offices.

“What we can say at this point is that the spraying has been suspended and the existing State/County Topanga Canyon Boulevard (TCB) committee is being re-activated to come up with both short- and long-term solutions to managing roadside brush and vegetation along TCB.”

“We will keep the [TCB committee] an organization-based committee,” said Pershing, adding that CalTrans and the Board of Supervisors will also be on the committee. “That’s the model that worked well in the past. CalTrans will work with us.” He anticipates the first meeting to happen in two to three weeks

Allanoff outlined TCWC actions, among them a “No More Poison” petition to circulate throughout the community that would be presented to state and county elected officials and candidates.

Others volunteered to organize a fundraiser for the TCWC, which will need funding to carry on the fight for a pesticide-free canyon.

“That agreement was a unique experience. You should broaden your vision, invite others to participate, because you can do great things with this,” said Melina Watts, Coordinator of the Santa Monica Mountains Watershed.