SANTA MONICA—The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is currently facing scrutiny for bulldozing endangered plants located at the Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. 

A federal investigation is underway since the plants are considered endangered. According to the Los Angeles Times, the LADWP began bulldozing the mountain to execute their plan to replace wooden power poles with steel ones. The project was to replace more than 200 wooden power poles from Pacific Palisades to Lake Encino. The goal is to decrease potential fire hazards. The federal investigation will put the LADWP’s construction on hold.

According to state authorities, LADWP workers potentially destroyed hundreds of endangered Braunton’s milk vetch plants. The plants have dwindled to less than 3,000 in the wild. More than half of the remaining Braunton’s milk vetch plants are located in Topanga State Park, and limiting the survival of the species.

According to officials from the California State Park, due to the construction and extra dirt other plants have been pushed over the ridge and covered with other vegetation. The Los Angeles Department of Public Works allegedly encased endangered red-legged frogs in cement earlier this year threatening the lives of the species, while performing emergency repair work near Leo Carrillo State Park. Biologists have been working on re-introducing the endangered red-legged frogs to the area. The park is vulnerable to debris flow as a result of the Woolsey Fire and the Tubbs Fire.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation, California Coastal Commision, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trying to determine the amount of damage done to the plant population. The federal Endangered Species Act has limited authority with plants located on state park land.

“In response to recent community concerns about protected plants in the construction area, LADWP has halted construction and is working with biologists and other experts to conduct an investigation and assessment of the site,” stated Stephanie Spicer, spokesperson for the LADWP to the LA Times.

Written by Maydeen Merino and Christianne McCormick