Symposium Explores the Complexities of Sediment Management

September 29, 2011 § 7 Comments

1969. A conveyor belt transports sediment away from Big Tujunga Reservoir. (Los Angeles Public Library Images)

Last Tuesday (9/20), the Council for Watershed Health (formerly the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council) hosted a creek-freaky event entitled Shifting Soil: Sediment Management Policies in Los Angeles. While I was fortunate enough to be in attendance, it has taken some time to digest all that was discussed and to place in context all of the remarks that were made. The following is my best attempt at a summary including a few thoughts on the topic. For further reading, have a gander at Mademoiselle Gramophone’s in depth coverage (including video and audio snippets) or visit the Council’s event archive for downloadable PDF files of each presentation. A friendly forewarning: this post is a lengthy one… « Read the rest of this entry »

The Arcadia Woodlands: In Memoriam

January 14, 2011 § 11 Comments

A view into a cathedral-like canopy that exists only in memory as of Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Indulge my sorrow for a moment by pondering this: as a complex and regenerative living system, the Arcadia Woodlands did not have a date of birth. Yes, technically the site contained trees that could be counted and carbon dated to determine age, but this approach fails to take into account the perpetuity of life and death that had existed there for thousands of years. The Woodlands were born long before the human concept of birth, before our concept of tree. This dynamic ensemble of life bore witness to countless iterations of diversity and evolution. The Woodlands were, at one time, undoubtedly inhabited by species we will never have the opportunity to name. They were shaped by wind, water, fire, plate tectonics and natural selection, forces far beyond the influence of the minuscule Homo sapiens, the seldom-wise-but-often-arrogant man. Yet, in less than one day, this ecology that knows no time was irreverently reduced to a memory by a construction crew swinging steel arms, and by officials wielding twisted words and hasty pens. « Read the rest of this entry »

Woodland Update: The Eve of Destruction

January 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

From left to right, David Czamanske (Sierra Club), Cam Stone (Arcadia), Caroline Brown (Sierra Madre) and Glen Owens (Monrovia) speak in front of Supervisor Michael Antonovich during the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Meeting

SIGN THE PETITION TO SAVE THE ARCADIA WOODLANDS!

  • D-DAY (DEMOLITION DAY) IS TOMORROW!!!: Cam Stone reports that at 11:15PM tonight, he witnessed a large flat-bed truck passing by his house on Elkins Avenue (driving away from the gate that leads to the Woodlands), followed by what appeared to be a government vehicle (black Crown Victoria). This likely means that the heavy machinery will be on site for work in the morning. Time is near gone for the venerable oaks and sycamores of the Arcadia Woodlands.
  • Protest at Elkins Avenue gate: As a last-ditch effort, supporters will gather at the Elkins Aveune gate at 7:00AM sharp to protest the destruction of the Arcadia Woodlands. If you are available tomorrow and at all vested in this issue, this is most likely your last opportunity to act. Directions: From the 210 Freeway, head north on Santa Anita Avenue (for approx. 1.5 miles), make a right on Elkins Avenue, drive about 1/2 mile to the end of Elkins, the gate is at the end of the road.
  • City of Arcadia finally recognizes the project is flawed: As reported in the Arcadia Patch, the City of Arcadia sent a letter to Supervisor Michael Antonovich this morning explaining that they were now (finally) aware that the Santa Anita Reservoir Sediment Removal Project may actually result in more truck loads through the neighborhood rather than less (as was explained by the County during the EIR process… the idea of trucks driving through Arcadia neighborhoods on a continual basis was not well-received in the community and public opposition led to the County’s choice of the plan that would clear the Woodlands to prevent trucking through the neighborhood). The City of Arcadia expressed concern because by destroying the Woodlands, the County would gain 500,000 cubic yards of space for future sediment dumping (not all of which would come from Santa Anita Reservoir but from seven other debris basins outside the City of Arcadia as well, which means… trucks through Arcadia neighborhoods). This was not communicated by the County during the EIR process… while welcomed with open arms, the letter from the City of Arcadia may be too little too late.
  • Woodland supporters voice their concerns before the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (to no avail…): Despite being excluded from the agenda, approximately twenty supporters of the Arcadia Woodlands appeared at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ weekly meeting today. Many spoke eloquently and passionately on the topic during the public comment portion of the meeting, but since the Board cannot deliberate on non-agenda items, no action was taken.
  • L.A. County Department of Public Works officials speak in front of the Board: Prior to public comments at the end of the meeting (where supporters of the Arcadia Woodlands spoke out), Mark Pestrella and Chris Stone of the L.A. County Department of Public Works sat before the Board and provided a brief summary of the DPW report on potential alternatives and public comments regarding the Santa Anita Reservoir Sediment Removal Project (the report was produced in response to the 30-day moratorium on construction to “explore project alternatives” called for by the Board of Supervisors). Not surprisingly, Pestrella and Stone defended their plan and stated that if the project was shelved, the entire City of Sierra Madre and a portion of Arcadia would loose drinking water and flood protection for nearly 56,000 residents would be lost. This is a subtle misrepresentation of the argument put forth by supporters of the Arcadia Woodlands who are, by no means, calling for the project to be canceled. Woodland supporters recognize the need for sediment removal and have proof (in the form of an independently commissioned engineering report) that this can happen without destroying the Woodlands. One of the most notable moments of the exchange occurred when Pestrella contended that the removal of the Woodlands and subsequent sediment placement was actually the most “sustainable” option (in lieu of trucking the sediment off-site) because, if there were no dam upstream and no channel, the sediment would be deposited in the Woodlands “naturally”. I am at a loss for words…

Woodland Update: Monday, Jan. 10, 2011

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oaks and sycamores line the access road adjacent to the Arcadia Woodlands.

SIGN THE PETITION TO SAVE THE ARCADIA WOODLANDS!

  • Arcadia Woodlands on Fox 11 News: Glen Owens (Monrovia Planning Commissioner) and Cam Stone (Arcadia resident and Woodlands Advocate) were interviewed by Hal Eisner of Fox 11 News a short time ago. The piece will air during the 10:00PM news hour tonight.
  • Protest scheduled for tomorrow: The following message is an excerpt from a press release composed by Christle Balvin of Hintz & Balvin Communications: Halt those bulldozers and switch off those chain saws” will be the message delivered by a wide-spread coalition of Arcadia neighbors and environmentalists massing in front of the Board of Supervisor’s at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11th at 500 West Temple in Los Angeles. If you are interested, by all means join in!
  • L.A. County Board of Supervisors Meeting: Despite numerous phone calls, letters, and emails, the Woodlands did not make it onto the supplemental agenda for the Board meeting tomorrow. However, there will be a contingent of supporters on hand to voice their opposition to the destruction of the Woodlands. If you wish to have your voice heard, show up early and fill out a speaker card. The board cannot act on any item that is not on the agenda, but if enough voices are heard, perhaps Supervisor Antonovich will be moved to action.
  • Legal action on behalf of the Woodlands: The following is an excerpt from an email sent by Caroline Brown (spokeswoman for the California Oaks Foundation): “Glen [Owens] has hired an attorney to file a letter with the County.  It will request a short moratorium asking for a week or more to review the County’s report which only was available Friday around 2:00 p.m.  The Country Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday morning.  If the Board does not grant the extension at its morning meeting, the attorney will file a restraining order to stop the bulldozers now scheduled for Wednesday morning.”
  • Arcadia Woodlands on YouTube: On Saturday (Jan. 8), Cam Stone and Kevin Breckner (Time River Productions) visited the woodlands and were spotted by security guards who promptly contacted the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. The confrontation was uneventful and led to no penalties, but the visit did produce what might be some of the last film footage of the Woodlands. The YouTube video “Santa Anita Wash Oak Grove Threatened” has over 200 hits as of this post.
  • Arcadia Woodlands on Facebook: Save the Arcadia Woodlands group HERE.
  • Petition Update: The online petition to save the Arcadia Woodlands has over 1,300 signatures as of this post!

Woodland Demolition to Begin on 1/12/11

January 7, 2011 § 3 Comments

 

The decision is yours...

In a valiant and rapid display of literary unity, Creek Freak co-founder Jessica Hall organized Blogger Solidarity Day today in response to the pending destruction of the Arcadia Woodlands next Wednesday, January 12th. In an effort to spread the word about the cause far and wide, the online community here in L.A. took action (see list of participants at bottom). Following are a few of our thoughts (a big thanks to Jessica for her contributions here!) on a cause worthy of a fight right in our own backyard… « Read the rest of this entry »

Arcadia Woodlands Update

January 5, 2011 § 22 Comments

The heart of the Arcadia Woodlands

 

ALERT!!! CHAINSAWS TO BITE NEXT WEDNESDAY MORNING (1/12/11)

According to trustworthy sources, the Department of Public Works plans on continuing with the project as is and states that it completed all procedural work correctly, despite an otherworldly lack of communication! Work will resume (and chainsaws will bite) next Wednesday, January 12th unless extraordinary action is taken by the Board of Supervisors. It’s time to flood the lines of Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich! Please call (213) 974-5555 to request that this item be added to the Board of Supervisors Agenda for this Tuesday (1/11/11). Today is the last day supplemental items can be added!

Click HERE for what might be the last film footage of the Arcadia Woodlands.

SIGN THE PETITION TO SAVE THE ARCADIA WOODLANDS!

The 30-day moratorium on construction proposed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich (5th District) and approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on December 7th expires at midnight on January 7th (this Friday). In theory, if no further action is taken by the Board of Supervisors to halt construction, there is nothing stopping the L.A. County Department of Public Works from authorizing the demolition (which could technically begin this Friday!) of a significant portion of the Arcadia Woodlands to make way for 250,000 cubic yards of sediment from nearby Santa Anita Reservoir. It seems to be an appropriate time to provide a somewhat detailed summary of the continued plight to save the Woodlands in what may prove to be the final days of this shining example of our natural heritage. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Arcadia Woodland (and its possible future)

December 14, 2010 § 13 Comments

Arcadia Woodland Location Map (aerial image obtained from Google Earth)

Escorted by Cam Stone, a long-time resident of the Arcadia foothills, two Sierra Club members and I passed through a series of locked gates en route to an ageless, enduring place that in recent days has become perilously ephemeral. Inspired by Jessica’s previous post on plans to raze the 11-acre old-growth oak woodland, I felt immediately compelled to see it, to hear it, to feel it beneath my feet. The Woodland was unknown to me prior to reading the post but minutes later I found myself making phone calls to writers and local residents already involved in the story, eagerly trying to find a way to go. There are so few remnant places like this in the area and I was awestruck to find out that the County was actually planning on wiping the Woodland off the map to make way for a stockpile of sediment. « Read the rest of this entry »

Water workshops for arid lands

March 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University is offering free! workshops to bring out your inner DIY’er to help you make LA more livable in the long run.

All workshops are from 9-3, held on the Woodbury campus, 7500 Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank CA.  Email aridlands@woodbury.edu to RSVP and get more info.  Or, go to http://www.aridlands.woodbury.edu

Here’s the line-up:

Saturday March 27:  Green Roofs/GreenWalls with Linda Taalman of Taalman Koch Architects, Debbie Richomond of Tourmaine Richmond Architects and Stephanie Landregan, ASLA, of the UCLA Extension

Saturday, April 3: Water Smart Landscapes: Yard, Driveway, Sidewalk, Street with Fritz Haeg of Edible Estates, Holly Harper of North East Trees, and David Fletcher of Fletcher Studio.

Saturday, April 17: Rainwater Harvesting + Grey Water Systems with Leigh Jerrard of California Greywater Corps and Jenna Didier of Fountainhead Design.

Public meeting 8/31 – Maintenance/impact to Sullivan Canyon’s stream

August 30, 2009 § 3 Comments

View of Sullivan Canyon from SoCalMtB.com

View of Sullivan Canyon from SoCalMtB.com

One site, two perspectives.

Sullivan Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains is one of LA’s most popular mountain biking destinations.  It is also a spot that many hikers frequent.

On September 1st, it could be temporarily closed down – and not for state budget reasons.

As you probably know, there’s a gas line in the canyon.  In the floodplain.  So naturally, it is compromised.  The service road in the canyon is also washed out in places.

The Southern California Gas Company has made plans to repair the gas line and the road.  They got their environmental consultant, met with the public agencies and got their permits lined up.  Everything was in order, done in accordance with the law.

Members of the Sullivan Canyon and local environmental community, on the other hand, got a rude shock when they learned they’d be losing access to their canyon – and losing 185 protected trees and 2+ acres of riparian habitat.  How could this happen without public notification, public meetings to review the plans, people wondered.

Parts of the stream will be lined in concrete matting, or covered with rip-rap, a common “fix” that environmentalists are constantly battling.  Concrete – any armoring of a stream that decreases its natural roughness – results in changes to the stream’s channel and its function, and routinely fails after enough time.  Habitat loses. Always.

But under the California Environmental Quality Act(CEQA), maintenance activities are exempt from Environmental Impact Reports, which is what triggers public notices and meetings.  So the decision to lay rip rap and concrete matting was made under this exemption – not that an EIR would have stopped it.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you already also know that CEQA also doesn’t outright prohibit the filling of streams.  It just sets up a process for managing that loss through mitigation, which the Gas Company is faithfully doing, complying and cooperating with state and federal environmental regulators to mitigate through replanting and acquisition/restoration elsewhere.

It’s easy to say today that running a pipeline down a steep canyon with an active floodplain was probably kind of a dumb thing to do.  I find myself saying similar things about floodplain development all the time.  It doesn’t change the fact that it’s done.  So what now?  Can we as a society bear the cost of relocating these things to more sensible places?  We’ve also lost probably over 90% of our waterways to dumb development practices.  Can we really afford to keep chipping away at what’s left?  And while we’re at it, how do we ensure equity, that all the infrastructure isn’t just shoved into the poorest neighborhoods?

Public outcry has made it possible for you to have your say:  Monday August 31 (that will probably be today for many readers), there will be a public meeting about this.  Thank the Brentwood Community Council and others for working with their local elected officials, Bill Rosendahl and Mike Feuer, to make this meeting possible, as well as for seeking a postponement of the work until everyone understands the options.

Meeting info:

PLACE:

West Los Angeles Municipal Building

Second Floor Hearing Room – Room 200

1645 Corinth Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90025

DATE and TIME:

Monday, August 31, 2009

7:00pm


Stormwater Harvesting Roundup

November 11, 2008 § 1 Comment

Here are three recent items for folks interested in harvesting rainwater:

>>Today, UC Riverside researchers released a report entitled Capturing Urban Stormwater Runoff: A Decentralized Market-Based Alternative. It shows that decentralized stormwater interventions can be cheaper and more effective than centralized ones. Here’s their press release or download the full 16-page report (PDF) here. From the press release: the cost of building and maintaining these smaller, decentralized devices in urban areas could be 30 percent to 50 percent cheaper than constructing and operating large, centralized stormwater facilities. They also found that the value of the water that could be captured and used to recharge aquifers could amount to 38 percent of the cost of the smaller devices.

>>Via Boing Boing and my friend/neighbor/conspirator Federico: Take a look at this photo showing a beautiful artistic water harvesting system from Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, Germany!

View of Grassy Swale at Broadous School (from TreePeople's report)

View of Grassy Swale at Broadous School (from TreePeople Rainwater as a Resource report)

>>Last year, TreePeople released a report entitled Rainwater as a Resource: A Report on Three Sites Demonstrating Sustainable Stormwater Management. The report, available at TreePeople’s website, details three innovative green watershed management projects: Hall House, Broadous Elementary School, and Open Charter Magnet Elementary School. The report tells the stories behind these projects – site selection, design processes, costs, maintenance, quantification of various benefits from water quality to air quality to flood prevention, and more. The reports tell the stories warts and all! TreePeople has made some interesting mistakes learning opportunities… which should be expected when folks push boundaries with ambitious projects. The report presents plenty of lessons learned and important recommendations for similar projects in the future. Also included are some serious appendices with as-built plans, and details regarding maintenance and inspection.

From TreePeople’s Rainwater as Resource report:

Challenge: In the absence of a written maintenance agreement for the Broadous project, partners whose contractual obligations ended when construction did nevertheless found themselves working without compensation in an effort to maintain the viability of the project. The lack of a comprehensive and easy-to-use operations manual, inadequate communication among the partners and turnover among the district’s operations and maintenance staff exacerbated the problem.
Lesson: It is difficult to get anyone to accept liability as complicated issues arise. Construction and other
liabilities (such as issues of contaminated soils disposal, underground utilities, and construction fencing to ensure student safety) nevertheless have to be adopted. It is advisable to budget extra time, care and resources toward these challenges, and to plan quarterly meetings between representatives from all involved parties for the first year after construction. Written maintenance contracts and clear instructions should be developed and agreed upon before the project is completed.
Despite the intensive resource demands of the planning and implementation phase, the project does not end once construction is complete. The project will only fulfill its purpose if there is sustained interest and a plan for continuity.

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