Topanga Creek Watershed Committee Fundraiser Screens Rock the Boat

By Flavia Potenza, Topanga Messenger

Topanga fundraisers are always the same: Joyful. Generous. Great food.

So it was on April 18, when the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee (TCWC) and friends gathered at Froggy’s for the premier screening of Rock the Boat: Saving America’s Wildest River, generously hosted by Lance Roberts and Sabrina.

Gail McDonald served up a healthy and tasty array of hors d’oeuvres to compliment wine and beer from the cash bar. As guests arrived, raffle tickets with wonderful prizes sold like hotcakes.

Raffle prizes were donated by Inn of the Seventh Ray; Delmar Lathers’ Nature Walk for six; Topanga Creek Bicycles’ mountain bike adventure and after-ride BBQ; and Randi Johnson, a producer of the film and one of the event’s organizers with McDonald and Julie McInally, donated a Rock the Boat swag bag, with poster, DVD, and a bottle of LA River water (don’t drink it).

The room filled up and you could hardly finish one conversation without seeing someone else to start another. While we may all live in the same small space, it often takes an event like this to reconnect with friends and remember why we are friends in the first place.

Then there is the reason why everyone has gathered here at this time.

WHY A WATERSHED COMMITTEE?

Perhaps one of our least known, yet most needed non-profit organizations is the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee and its skeleton crew of dedicated volunteers who see to its mission of protecting Topanga’s unique wilderness from human impact.

The Topanga Chamber of Commerce recognized its importance by naming it Non-Profit of the Year at its awards dinner earlier this month, acknowledging the group’s participation in the Ad Hoc Topanga Creek Roadside Committee to stop Caltrans from spraying herbicides along the Boulevard.

TCWC’s current campaign, “No More Poisons,” asks everyone who lives or works here to evaluate everything we use on a daily basis for its impact on the environment. “Everything we do in our homes should be free of toxins,” said TCWC chair Ben Allanoff, adding, “Our hope is that folks will carry the vision and message of a non-toxic watershed to a wider audience.

“We choose to live here because we love to be immersed in nature,” he said. “Just by living and working here, we all impact the air, land and water and everything else that lives here.”

To help emphasize the importance of a toxin-free community, home school children participating in an Earth Day Wildlife Awareness Youth Project, presented a skit where each took on the persona of a coyote, rabbit, skunk and bobcat to explain how using rodenticides on rats negatively impacts animals higher up on the food chain that eat them.

Part of the project is to sell owl boxes to encourage owls to nest nearby and keep the rodent population in balance and to ask local merchants not to sell poisons.

When it came time to show the film, everyone settled down in anticipation of the evening’s highlight and there it was … not only upside-down and backwards but purple and day-glo green!

While tekkies scrambled to reboot the computer, George Wolfe, the kayaker in the film who led the “illegal” journey down the LA River, took questions and spoke about his experience “navigating,” all 52 miles of the river.

It was a welcome preface to the film. We learned that there are only 1600 watersheds in all of the U.S. despite the Clean Water Act that was passed in 1972.

In 2006, a Supreme Court decision declared that we may protect only navigable waters but did not bother to define “navigable.” In 2008, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers decided that the LA River was not navigable. As a result, there was no protection of 850 square miles of the LA watershed.

“I became an ‘unwitting activist,’” Wolfe said, “and we used this as a legal precedent to prove that the Clean Water Act applies to the LA River. It is navigable.”

The film was soon right-side-up but the color couldn’t be corrected. Everyone unanimously agreed to watch the film anyway, despite the color. TCWC will screen the film again at other venues.

Rock the Boat is well worth adding to your repertoire of environmental testimonies to the importance of defending our planet’s natural wonders—like the Topanga Creek Watershed.

YOU CAN HELP

Allanoff says the event brought in about $1,000 that will fund ongoing and future projects such as website development, printing, maintenance of the native garden, a public forum on invasive plants and a local outlet where people can buy, rent, or borrow a variety of non-toxic pest control tools. To help these initiatives move from concept to reality, call (310) 455-4156 or e-mail: topanga.tcwc@gmail.com or visit topangacreekwatershedcommittee.org for more information.