Today’s L.A. Times on Fisherman and Farmers

August 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

Today on page A2, the L.A. Times has another very good article that is likely to appeal to many of us Creek Freaks. Sacramento correspondent George Skelton’s ‘Water buffaloes’ got it all wrong suggests that California’s delta struggles shouldn’t be framed as farmers vs. fish, but more like farmers and fishermen. The article is perhaps a bit human-centric (and perhaps could mention fisherwomen, too,) but definitely worth reading.

Also, folks might want to listen to Homegrown Evolution‘s first podcast, where L.A. City’s Wing Tam and I speak about the city’s rainwater harvesting program. The stormwater story fills the second half of the hour-long audio file.

News and Events – 12 August 2009

August 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

Some recent coverage of items that might be of interest to our fellow creek freaks – scroll down for events:

>The Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog entry Trapping the Rain highlights the Natural Resources Defense Council’s new report A Clear Blue Future: How Greening California Cities Can Address Water Resources and Climate Challenges in the 21st Century. The report  is about Low Impact Development “LID” and how we can build smarter to save water and energy.

>Los Angeles westside property owners can trap your own rain if you apply for the city’s new rainwater harvesting program. If you’re looking to set up your own rain harvesting system (like Homegrown Evolution details here) check out creek freak’s favorite water harvesting expert Brad Lancaster‘s recommendations for selecting the least toxic hose

 >Homegrown Evolution reports on the recent approval of California’s smart new greywater law, designed to make it easier to reuse your greywater. Greywater is “used” water from your washing machine, sinks or showers. Mr. Homegrown will  be teaching a greywater workshop this Sunday – see below. Soak in creek freak’s washing machine greywater system here.

>The San Gabriel Valley Tribune covers the new master planning underway for the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area – 1200 acres where the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo squeeze together behind the Whittier Narrows Dam. Also, the Pasadena Star News reports that the Altadena Foothills Conservancy is doing the early planning work to create a new trail system along the Eaton Canyon Wash, which could connect from the foothills above Pasadena all the way down to the Whittier Narrows.

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

>The Los Angeles County Sanitation District website profiles the Bixby Marshland – a 17-acre remnant wetlands located near the intersection of Figueroa and Sepulveda in the city of Carson. They’re looking for volunteers to help steward the site.

>The City Project is about to unveil new proposals for Griffith Park on the East Bank of the Los Angeles River – a future Los Angeles River park on the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks 28-acre Central Service Yard, located at the end  of Chevy Chase Drive in North Atwater. The city is already planning to restore a small remnant creek in one corner of the site.

>Federal stimulus money is helping make the Los Angeles River healthier (though creek freak would like to see it do a whole lot more!) Funds are being used to provide trash capture devices that prevent trash from getting into the river (via Spouting Off.) They’ll be installed in about a dozen downstream cities from Vernon to Montebello to Long Beach. There’s also some federal funding planned for reworking the “Shoemaker Bridge” where the 710 Freeway crosses the Los Angeles River near downtown Long Beach. The project includes doubling the size of Cesar Chavez Park. Let’s hope that it doesn’t hasten the expansion of the rest of the 710 Freeway - a huge threat to restoration on the lower river

>An odd little video featuring a homeless man fishing by throwing rocks into the Los Angeles River (thanks Jeff Chapman.) See creek freak’s earlier post on fish in the L.A. River

>And, for bridge geeks, Blogdowntown reports on the city of Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Commission instructions for the city’s bridge engineers to consider more preservation options as they plan to demolish (*sob*) and replace the monumental 1932 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The proposal is to widen and straighten the bridge into freeway proportions. Creek freak feels a wave of despair just writing about this wrong-headed project and its “let’s destroy our heritage while bringing way more cars into dense urban areas” mentality. Here’s a grim rendering of the proposed “3-dual tower cable supported viaduct.”

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Upcoming events to explore and get involved with local creek freaks:

>The excellent documentary movie Tapped shows today and tomorrow at the Arclight theaters in Hollywood. Showtimes hereCreek Freak’s review here.

>This Sunday August 16th at 11am, Homegrown Evolution offers a greywater workshop called “D.I.Y. Greywater: Hack Your Washing Machine

>Friends of the Los Angeles River is hosting a few upcoming Los Angeles River clean-ups. On Saturday August 22nd they’ll be at the Sepulveda Basin, and Saturday August 29th at Taylor Yard. There will also be river sites at this year’s Coastal Clean-Up Day coming up on September 19th.

News and Events – 16 April 2009

April 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

N-n-n-news:

South East Trees' Latest!

South East Trees' Latest Masterpiece!

> The new Cudahy River Park opens along the southeast stretch of the Los Angeles River!  What will North East Trees think of next?

> L.A. Streetsblog looks at federal stimulus money going to California bicycle projects – looks promising that funds will go to the lower Arroyo Seco Bikeway.

> Friday-tomorrow noon is your deadline for entering L.A. Creek Freak’s first-ever contest.  Win the Audubon Center at Debs Park’s guide to Animals of the Los Angeles River by merely commenting on our blog.  Right now the odds are better than 1 in 10.  No purchase required.  Void where prohibited.  Your results may vary.

>Friends of the Los Angeles River’s 2008 fish study is now on-line!  Creek Freak reviewed it here – one of our most perennially popular posts! Now let me tell about that one that got away…

E-e-e-events:

>Tomorrow, Friday April 17th at 2:30, the City of LA hosts a talk  on the revitalization of Seoul’s  Cheong Gye Cheong river.

>This Sunday afternoon, April 19th, Long Beach’s Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance hosts tours of the Dominguez Gap – a restored wetland park along the lower Los Angeles River.    Creek Freak visited the site recently and the wildflowers are blooming beautifully!

>Also this Sunday, April 19th at 3:30pm, Friends of the LA River hosts a walk along the scenic Glendale Narrows stretch of the L.A. River.  Meet at Steelhead Park, on Oros Street in Frogtown.

>Support your local bloggers Joe Linton and Damien Newton as we teach you how to blog like we do – plus mucho other useful free stuff on the web at our Internet Skills Class on Tuesdays April 21st and 28th.  We teach it again May 4th and 11th.

Spring cleaning opportunities abound:
> This Saturday April 18th at Taylor Yard with North East Trees.  Yo! it’s Earth Day!
> Next Saturday April 25th at Taylor Yard with North East Trees and local Obama folk.
>Saturday May 9th at Taylor Yard and many many other sites with Friends of the L.A. River.

>On April 25th and 26th, Urban Photo Adventures leads their Los Angeles River photography tour – see and capture some of the grittiest industrial sites along the mighty Los Angeles.

Bike the Emerald Necklace on the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo with the city of El Monte’s Tour of Two Rivers bike rally on Saturday May 16th.  Then bike the Los Angeles River on the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s River Ride on Sunday June 7th.

Fish in the Los Angeles River

October 28, 2008 § 29 Comments

Fisherman showing off carp caught in L.A. River in Elysian Valley 2006

Fisherman Displaying Carp Caught in the Los Angeles River (Elysian Valley 2006)

If you spend time along the Los Angeles River, sometimes, usually at the periphery of your vision, you’ll notice seeming incongruous splashes in still waters. You may wonder – was that a fish that just jumped or am I imagining things? You’re not imagining things, there are actually lots of fish in the Los Angeles River. Not as many and not the same kinds as have been there historically, but still plenty, and seeming more lately than in the recent past. In this blog entry, Creek Freak will school you on a bit of the river’s fishy history, and cast our nets into its waters today.

Let’s start way back with the fossil record as uncovered by researchers at the La Brea Tar Pits. Three fish species have been documented there: Oncorhynchus mykiss (steelhead/rainbow trout), Gila orcutti (arroyo chub), and Gasterosteus aculeatus (three spined stickleback.) Fossil evidence and trapped samples also show many amphibians and freshwater invertebrates, including the extinct river shrimp mentioned in a previous post.

Archduke Ludwig Louis Salvator, in his 1877 Los Angeles in the Sunny Seventies, notes the following tantalizing fish: “the salmon, Quinnat salmon (Salmo quinnat), abundant between November and June; two kinds of trout, the brook trout (Salar iridea); and the salmon trout (Ptychocheilus grandis).” These names, based on an internet search, are today known as the king salmon, rainbow trout, and Sacramento pikeminnow. Neither the pikeminnow nor the king salmon have been verified by other sources. However, an errant chinook was observed several years ago making its way up Ballona Creek – historically a distributary of the Los Angeles River. Perhaps he wasn’t errant, but a homecoming descendant of Salvator’s Quinnat salmon?

According to Blake Gumprecht’s The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death and Possible Re-Birth (p.26), historically at least seven species of native fish were common in the river: southern steelhead, Pacific lamprey, Pacific brook lamprey, arroyo chub, unarmored three-spine stickleback, Santa Ana sucker and Santa Ana speckled dace. All of these species are gone from the river today (though a couple persist in some tributaries.) The Pacific brook lamprey is extinct. The steelhead, stickleback and speckled dace are officially endangered species; the sucker and Pacific lamprey probably should be. Of the historic fish species, the Arroyo chub are perhaps doing best, though in a small portion of their historic range. Reintroduction of the arroyo chub was the focus of Pasadena’s recent habitat restoration efforts on a soft-bottom stretch of the Arroyo Seco – a tributary of the Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times 14 November 1937

Los Angeles Times 14 November 1937

Now and then in early- to mid- 20th-century accounts, there are reports of fish in the river; here are a few examples from the Los Angeles Times. In an August 5th 1923 article Drain Pipe Ike Waltons, the Times reported a “Mexican youth” fishing with a screen having caught “a number of carp and one large flat mud fish” in the Los Angeles River bed. On November 14th 1937 an article Extra! Three-Pound Bass Caught in Los Angeles River tells the story of Justo Najjora who went to the Los Angeles River for sand, but brought along a net to catch some crayfish and ended up catching a 3-pound bass. A March 1st 1940 article Jail Trusty Catches Fish — Yes, in Los Angeles River told (in demeaning language) about an imprisoned Native American named William Greyfox who bare-handedly caught a 25-inch 6-pound steelhead. Pity Poor Fish in LA River (March 11 1941) questions whether Fish & Game trucks need to be brought in to save steelhead in the river. A March 31st 1941 article Cycling Couple Catch Fish in Hands in Los Angeles River tells of a couple (Mr. and Mrs. Ernest L. Shockley of Glendale) who were bicycling along the river and caught a 10-inch steelhead near Los Feliz Boulevard.

Unfortunately the general tone of these articles is one of great surprise to find that there are actually (gasp!) fish in the river. Given the long history of Los Angeles River fish, it seems a bit strange to us that reporters would expect not to find fish there – though, at the time, the river was very degraded and considered a dumping ground in many areas.

In 1993, the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum (NHM) produced a report on the biota of the Los Angeles River (not currently available on-line, but available at the downtown Los Angeles library.) The report includes a section entitled The Past and Present Freshwater Fish Fauna of the Los Angeles River: With Particular Reference to the Area of Griffith Park by Camm C. Swift and Jeffrey Seigel. This excellent report appears to be where Gumprecht got most of his information on fish history. The historic accounts include plenty of important details: migration throughout parts of the river by season and by age of the fish species, habitat requirements for spawning, and details of historic accounts where fish species were sighted and collected. The report included a series of four fish sampling events from May 1991 to January 1992 at various sites in the river stretch near Griffith Park. Fishes collected were: more than 1100 mosquitofish, about 70 fathead minnow, 19 tilapia, 10-12 carp, and 1 goldfish.

The 1.5-2.5 inch long Mosquitofish, the most common fish found in the Los Angeles River (image public domain via wikimedia)

In recent years, the most common fish in the Los Angeles River is the mosquitofish. Pictured is the female mosquitofish, which grows to approximately 2.5 inches in length. (image public domain via wikimedia)

Anecdotally, since around 2004 or so, it seems that fish are easier to spot in the river. In the Glendale Narrows and the Sepulveda Basin, there are plenty of people fishing, and it’s not uncommon to see the dark silhouettes of fish moving through the waters. One of the most reliable spots for this is looking off the downstream end of the Burbank Boulevard Bridge. There are a few on-line videos showing this (relatively-polished and amateur.)

FoLAR's 2008 Fish Study

FoLAR 2008 Fish Study

In September 2008, the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) published their second State of the River Report entitled The Fish Study. FoLAR collected fish samples at four sites in the Glendale Narrows and found results similar to the 1993 NHM study. Sampling each site twice in August and September 2007, they caught 1214 individual fish. The take included 668 mosquitofish, 271 tilapia, 92 green sunfish, 83 fathead minnow, 58 carp, 24 black bullhead, 7 Amazon sailfin catfish and 1 largemouth bass.

Given that many of the fish caught are eaten, the FoLAR study also assayed fish samples to test for toxicity. The FoLAR report found relatively safe low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury. PCBs were highest in carp (9.4 to 16.3 parts per billion) though still below the California Office of Environmental Heath Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) advisory level (21 parts per billion) for folks eating fish three times a week. Mercury was highest in sunfish (20-50 parts per billion) though also below the OEHHA advisory level (70 parts per billion) for folks eating fish three times a week. Higher levels are likely to accumulate in older larger fish. The study states that its sample may not be sufficient to be conclusive (most of the carp analyzed weren’t mature enough or large enough to accumulate lots of toxins,) but overall it doesn’t look too bad. Cooking tips suggest that it’s safer to eat the fillet than to make stews or soups (as chemicals can concentrate in the head and guts.) Copies of the report are available from FoLAR.

There are quite a few places to fish along the river. The most popular fishing spots are the deeper ponding areas in Elysian Valley: immediately downstream from the 2 Freeway (around the end of Ripple Place) and around the ends of Shoredale Avenue and Harwood Street. Fishermen informally interviewed use tortillas or canned corn for bait.

It’s encouraging that there are lots of fish in the river. Why should we have have expected anything else? Even these non-native fish support other species, including osprey. But before you liberate your goldfish (or other aquatic pets) in the river, please consider that introducing non-natives can have a terrible effect on the native populations of fish and amphibians. They are especially notorious for eating the eggs and young of our native frogs!

Fish are a critically important indicator of stream health. Restoring steelhead runs can’t be done by restoring just the main channel though just one city, but will require a watershed approach, with continuous functional streambed habitat restoration from the mouth to mountainside tributaries. Parks along the top of the river (take your pick) are good. Side stream habitat restoration projects (including along the Lower Arroyo Seco in Pasadena and along the Tujunga Wash just north of Valley College) are even better… but we’re going to need to get into the channel bottom and remove some concrete for us to restore fish habitat.

Lewis MacAdams is fond of saying that we’ll know that our job is done when the steelhead return to the Los Angeles River. They’re endangered, but there are a few of them out in the ocean today, testing the Los Angeles’ waters now and then, waiting for us to do our part to heal our streams and welcome them back to waterways they’ve inhabited for millennia.

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Turtles, Ballona Bikes, Dorothy Green and more!

October 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Here are some on-line videos that all us creek freaks might enjoy:

>Los Angeles Times account of Aquarium of the Pacific’s healing and release of an injured San Gabriel River sea turtle (Great video – with fascinating x-rays of broken turtle flipper bones. Kudos to the great work of the Aquarium of the Pacific staff and the Times’ Louis Sahagun. There are also sea lions in the San Gabriel River.)

>KTLA news coverage of Ballona Creek Bike Path issues (via LA Streetsblog, includes Ballona Creek Renaissance’s Jim Lamm)

>Dorothy Green with Creek Freak bloggers (Jessica and Joe) talking with Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes on the city’s L.A. River Report public information channel

>Hook TV on How to fish for carp in the Los Angeles River

>Jeffrey Tipton’s Montage on the July 2008 Los Angeles River Boating Expedition organized by George Wolfe (Coming soon: an actual high production value trailer about this expedition. Also, check out George’s kayak commute video.)

>A group I don’t know about called LA River Story has done a somewhat accurate trio of documentaries beginning with San Fernando Valley tributaries: The Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural on the Tujunga Wash, the adjacent Tujunga Wash Greenway, and what they’re calling the beginning of the river in Chatsworth.

>Turn Here’s Down by the (L.A.) River (How many errors can you spot in Creek Freak Joe Linton’s brief appearance? Be grateful that I don’t plan to blog on restaurant recommendations any time soon.)

>Meeting of Styles Graffiti Murals Event (These murals were later painted out)

>Insidious Bliss (A bleak and beautiful documentary on crystal meth addiction and homelessness in the Glendale Narrows stretch of the L. A. River)

and lastly a couple of not entirely successful attempts at Los Angeles River Humor:

>Stewart Paap in search of the LA River (“Easy access, huh?”)

>Deep Sea Fishing in Studio City (My favorite part of this are the outtakes and the brief scene where the actor steps around the construction fence – I plan to blog soon about my frustration that the city of Los Angeles’ Studio City Riverwalk has been fenced off for more than a year.)

Recent News, Upcoming Events 2008 September 8

September 8, 2008 § Leave a comment

Recent News and Upcoming Events in the World of Los Angeles Water – 2008 September 8th. One in an occasional series of blogs where the links expire more quickly than usual:

Good news for fish: on August 27th, the Pasadena Star-News reported the celebration of the completion of the Arroyo Seco stream revitalization project, including the introduction of 300 Arroyo Chub – a threatened native fish species.

Bad news for fish: on August 29th, the Long Beach Press Telegram reported the deaths of approximately 1000 fish (mainly carp) in the lower Los Angeles River. A September 4th follow-up story suggested a possible link between the dead fish and an August 23rd fire at the Norman, Fox & Co. chemical plant in Vernon.

Other morbid Long Beach news: August 31st, the Contra Costa Times reported that Long Beach firefighters pulled a the body of dead man out of the river near Ocean Boulevard. No connection suggested to any upstream fires.

First Street Bridge photo by Ed Fuentes blogdowntown.com

First Street Bridge photo by Ed Fuentes blogdowntown.com

Troubled Bridges Over Waters: on September 2nd, blogdowntown reported on the dismantling of a portion of the 1929 First Street Bridge in order to make way for widening for lots and lots of cars and the tracks for the Metro Gold Line eastside extension. Though they are planning to keep most of the pieces for later re-assembly, this creek freak and self-proclaimed bridge geek feels that the bridge (which originally had streetcars running down the middle of it) was already plenty wide to begin with. Click here for the Historic American Engineering Record’s beautiful drawings recording many of the great local Merrill Butler bridges. Merrill Butler was the Los Angeles City bridge engineer from 1923 through 1961.

Upcoming Events:

On Sunday September 14th from 9am to 1pm, Jenny Price will be leading Friends of the Los Angeles River excellent day-long tour of the Los Angeles River. Jenny is a friend and a great writer on urban environmental issues; I highly recommend her essay “Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in L.A.”

The documentary movie FLOW opens this Friday September 12th at the Laemmle Sunset 5. Fabulous panel discussions ensue. Go to the prior blog entry to find more information.

Some Summer Reading Picks

July 31, 2008 § 5 Comments

The best way to learn about your local creeks, watersheds, and rivers is to go there and walk, bike, throw stones, kayak, etc., but, in case you’re looking for something to read on the bus on the way there, I offer some recommended reading. I will recommend other electronic reading and other books and publications again soon.

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Rainwater Harvesting by Brad Lancaster

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond: Volume 2 Water Harvesting Earthworks by Brad Lancaster (Rainsource Press, $32.95), Foreword by Andy Lipkis

This is one of the best books that I’ve read all year! It’s filled with lots of clear illustrations and step by step details on how to retool your landscape to catch and infiltrate rainwater. It features lots of real life examples, too. It’s a bit wonky, hence probably not for everyone. For us to remove concrete from our local waterways, we’re going to need to heal our watersheds. Brad Lancaster talks about treating rain as a welcome guest – invite it to slow down and stick around a for a bit. If we can allow rainwater to slow down and soak in, then we solve lots of problems for our waterways – water quantity (flooding), water quality (pollutants break down in the earth), water supply (increased infiltration means more groundwater available locally to drink), and greening our neighborhoods.
Excerpt: [A] well-designed and built [rainwater havesting earthwork] system can operate as a “beneficial ruin” once established since it can be largely self-maintaining. Long-abandoned earthworks located throughout the world still function and help support pocket oases of vegetation. Examples in the Southwest U.S. include check dams, terraces, contour berms, and stone mulches constructed by prehistoric Native Americans and more recently by the 1930′s Civil Conservation Corps projects. Each time I come across one of these old earthworks, I find a lost world full of life.
Totem Salmon : Life Lessons from Another Species by Freeman House (Beacon Press, $17.00)
This is another of my latest favorites. It’s a great narrative about an intrepid band of very human river activists in northern California who endeavor to preserve and restore salmon runs on the Mattole River.
Excerpt: A race of salmon is an expression of the river, the intelligence of the terrestrial home traveled to far seas – always to return to its place of birth. Salmon return to their riverine homes with the wealth of the great sea embodied in nutrients they will deliver to the waters and plants and animals of the forest at the completion of their lives. Migration is an adaptation toward abundance: more fish are born than the river can support; thus out-migration to the pastures of the sea. In the case of salmonids, migration and return is a dynamic ritual binding population to place.
The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Re-Birth by Blake Gumprecht (Johns Hopkins University Press, $21.95)
A perennial favorite (and I am happy to be mentioned in the foreword to the paperback edition.) This well-written and very readable book is full of maps and historic photographs. It shows the histories of flooding, water supply, agriculture, and current efforts to restore. I learned a lot about the history of Los Angeles from this book.
Excerpt: [The 1768 Portola Expedition] entered “a very lush green valley,” [diarist Father Juan] Crespi wrote, where they found the [Los Angeles] river … It was a “good sized, full flowing river,” about seven yards wide , he estimated, “with very good water, pure and fresh.” … Just upstream from the point where they first saw the river, the explorers noticed another stream that emptied into its channel, but its large bed was dry on that late summer day. This stream we now know as the Arroyo Seco. “The beds of both are very well lined with large trees, sycamores, willows, cottonwoods, and very large live oaks,” Crespi wrote. … He noted the presence beside its channel of great thickets of brambles, abundant native grapevines, and wild roses in full bloom. Sage was plentiful near the river, and the calls of turtle doves, quail, and thrushes filled the air near the camp. It was “a very lush and pleasing spot, in every respect,” he wrote. “To (the) southward there is a great extent of soil, all very green, so that it can really be said to be a most beautiful garden.”

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