Of Nexus and Navigability, Part 3: The Boater, the Biologist, and the Blogs
December 1, 2008 § 2 Comments
Creek Freak continues our exhausting alliterative four part series on the navigability rippling through the waters of the mighty Los Angeles:
Part 1 – Of Nexus and Navigability, a lament for our waterways
Part 2 – Journalistic Journeys
Part 3 – The Boater, the Biologist, and the Blogs
Part 4 – Action Alert
Of Nexus and Navigability – Part 3, The Boater, the Biologist and the Blogs
By way of background, federal waterway protections are being weakened through recent governmental decisions. For the federal Clean Water Act to protect a river, creek or stream, it must be a “traditionally navigable waterway” or have a “significant nexus” to one. See Part 1 for more detailed background and historical accounts of boating. See Part 2 for some 20th century accounts of boating. And this blog is where we bring boating into the present day.
A couple years ago, while I was working at Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), I got an email from George Wolfe who runs the Lala Times – a website mostly humor/parody site that bills itself as “California satire, wierd and bizarre news.” I have to confess that, at first, I mistakenly thought that I had been contacted by the LA Times and was always quick to respond to media requests. I soon spoke with George, a boater (who kayaks and canoes) with a idea to do a big expedition down the Los Angeles River.
George and I kept in touch. At one of our lunches discussing possible expedition parameters, he pulled out the most raggedly well-used copy of my book that I’d ever seen. He’d done a lot of advance scouting and even some negotiations with the County Flood Control District and the Army Corps. of Enginneer to permit the trip. The date was set for July 25th-27th 2008.
I met up with George for a trial run a week ahead of the expedition. We put in just below the Los Feliz Boulevard Bridge and kayaked down to the best rapid on the whole river, just below Marsh Park in Frogtown. Under the tutelage of FoLAR’s Denis Schure, I had been in a kayak a couple of times briefly in a calm nearly-currentless stretch of the Los Angeles, adjacent to Balboa Boulevard in the Sepulveda Basin. After kayaking that sweet well-flowing natural stretch with George, I was excited and hooked at how fun it was! I was disappointed in myself that I had been around the river all these years and hadn’t boated there often.
The three-day expedition was a blast. You can read my blog account of it here: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. There is a fair amount of documentation now online, including this recent trailer for a planned documentary feature about the trip:
Army Corps of Engineers biologist Heather Wylie accompanied the second day of the trip. She was later threatened with a 90-day unpaid suspension from work for participating. It turns out that her superiors didn’t know of her participation until they saw this photo of her posted on the LAist blog. Some links to her story are available here and an excellent editorial she wrote is linked here. Check out this short video where she tells you some of her stories:
The kayak expedition, in addition to being lots of fun and a great workout, proved to me personally that the vast majority of the Los Angeles is indeed very navigable. There are a few spots that required some portaging, mostly in the San Fernando Valley, but certainly all the way from the 134 Freeway downstream to Long Beach are easily kayaked any day of the year. Contrast this with the Army Corps of Engineers’ designation of only two short stretches (in the Sepulveda Basin and in Long Beach) as navigable. We’ve still got a long way to go in convincing our public agencies to respect the Los Angeles River.
Next: Part 4 – Action Alert – wherein you, the reader, take action on assuring federal protections for western waters. **12/3/2008 - Correction: this is an important meeting that’s still happening – but it’s not about navigability. Navigability meeting is a different one planned for December 16th – more info about that soon! Also, plan to attend the city of Los Angeles’ public meeting this Thursday night from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at the Metropolitan Water District in downtown Los Angeles. The meeting will include a presentation on and an opportunity to comment on the navigability issues.