The Council for Watershed Health (originally named the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council) grew out of conversations held between Dorothy Green and Mark Gold of Heal the Bay and Don Smith of Montgomery Watson Engineers regarding the inadequate communication among the governmental agencies with responsibilities in the watershed. Five different kinds of water agencies were not exchanging information with the public or between themselves. This conversation resulted in a decision to bring representatives of all of these water agencies (supply, groundwater, stormwater, water quality, and wastewater), regulatory agencies, citizen groups and consultants together to figure out how best to remedy this situation.

This disparate group met for almost a year at Montgomery Watson headquarters in Pasadena. They acknowledged that agencies have traditionally been established to accomplish single purpose goals and that the agencies’ authorizing legislation does not require communication or coordination with others working in similar areas of responsibility. In addition, bringing everyone together around a table is generally thought of as watershed management. It was also agreed to hold a conference with a broader group of people to determine how best to improve communications and make comprehensive watershed management planning work.

“Making Watersheds Work” was held in September 1995 at the Burbank Hilton Hotel. It was a by-invitation-only event, with participants chosen for their interest and willingness to think in new ways, and because they represented a broad spectrum of interests and affiliations. Four local watersheds were examined, and all but one had some type of cooperative effort in progress. The one with no organized cooperative effort, the very heart of the county, was the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed.

The costs of the conference were more than covered by a few of the conveners: Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, EPA Region IX, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Montgomery Watson Engineers, CH2M Hill, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, and Heal the Bay. The conveners then dedicated the money left over to form a broadly representative stakeholders group that became the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council.

Creating the Council. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works stepped forward to offer us a meeting place while we figured out who and what we were to become. Building on the list compiled for the conference, we held monthly meetings, inviting everyone interested to join with us, welcoming all additions to the mailing list including people who could not attend, but who wished to be kept informed of our activities. Heal the Bay managed the money at first, to build the mailing list, and to mail minutes and meeting notices to the list.

All those who chose to participate then:

Brainstormed the issues in the dual watershed, and organized them into an outline of what we needed to know. The outline was later used by the County and the Army Corps in developing their Watershed Management Plan, also called the Three Year Plan.
Adopted a Mission Statement: To facilitate a comprehensive, multi-purpose, stakeholder driven consensus process to preserve, restore, and enhance the many beneficial uses, economic, social, environmental and biological, of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers watersheds ecosystem through education, research, planning and mediation. And the following condensed mission statement to put on the letterhead: To facilitate the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of the Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River Watersheds.
Determined our legal structure with help from the attorneys at SCAG: a non-profit tax exempt 501[c][3] California Corporation as the governing body.
Adopted by-laws that required a board that is inclusive, representing the wide variety of stakeholders, all of whose concerns must be addressed in an open, respectful and cooperative way. Wherever possible, decisions will be reached by consensus.

Elected our first board of directors:
Dorothy Green, President, Heal the Bay
Michael Drennan, Vice-President, MDA Associates
Arthur Golding, Vice-President, Arthur Golding & Assoc., A.I.A.
Chuck Sihler, Secretary, Public Works City of Pomona
Joe Crocker, Treasurer, CPA
Kathleen Bullard, RCD of the Santa Monica Mtns
Andy Lipkis, TreePeople
Bob Miele, Sharon Green, Alt., Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts
Jim Noyes, LA County Public Works
Mark Pisano, Southern California Assoc. of Governments

Official Liaisons (non-voting):
Christopher Kroll, CA State Coastal Conservancy
Jovita Pajarillo, US EPA, Region IX
Mike Rogers, US Forest Service, Angeles National Forest
Gail C. Kobetich, Gina Shultz, Alt., US Fish and Wildlife Service
Jan Scow, California Native Plant Society
John Slezak, Ana Corado, Alt., LA Regional Water Quality Control Board
Lynda Smith, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California