Standing up for Big Tujunga

September 25, 2008 § 1 Comment

Spilling forth from the San Gabriel Mountains, Big Tujunga Wash is an impressive site.  Laden with boulders and white sands, it has made large contributions to the San Fernando Valley aquifer and laid the material for much of the building industry’s large quarries downstream.  

Yet Big Tujunga is more than a rock-and-water factory for us – it is a place of exquisite, and increasingly rare, habitats, of endangered species.  Recreationists visit the Wash, following an equestrial trail that runs alongside it.  

A few years back, citizens objected to a proposed golf course in the Wash’s floodplain, that ultimately got built. Predictably, the wash flooded the golf course.  While inconvenient for the golf course, this project was bad news for wildlife: not only did it displace habitat, even subtle changes to the wash from runoff or adjacent plantings can introduce toxins and invasive species, or change the hydrology of the Wash, increasing erosion or changing the plant composition.  

Google Earth image of Tujunga Wash and proposed development.  Click on image for enlargement.

Google Earth image of Tujunga Wash and proposed development. Click on image for enlargement.

Rick Grubb, environmental representative for the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council, reminded me of these facts recently – and put out the word that the City is yet again considering development that could impact the wash.  

According to Navigate LA, over 1/2 of the property at 11130 Oro Vista falls within the 100-Year Alluvial Floodplain. It also falls within the proposed Rim of the Valley trail area, a project to link the major mountain ranges that encircle the San Fernando Valley.  Rick’s group will fight for the wash at the appeal hearing before the Planning and Land Use Management committee, most likely on October 7.  Considering the wild and wooly nature of this river, the proximity to threatened and endangered species, and an active wildlife corridor, it seems foolish to permit development in this floodplain.  Considering, as Rick points out, that this wash is an “important source of VERY clean water for the city…” which encroaching development could impair, puts us beyond foolish.  Degradation, even if piecemeal, costs us in the long run.

Fortunately Rick and the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council aren’t stopping there – as Rick says in a recent email:  “I am currently working…on crafting 2 new specific plan protection areas.  The first is for the permanent protection of the Big Tujunga Wash wildlife corridor…as a preserve for it’s(sic) rare undisturbed natural riverine habitat, as a river trail parkway, and as a major wildlife corridor…” the second is “for ‘Hillside area native habitat protection'” that will “set…zoning land use limits, fencing (to allow for the continued passage of wildlife) design standards, and…native plant rescue landscaping design requirements…”  Creekfreak wishes the STNC folks the best of luck with this, and looks forward to putting on lugsoles and trekking around with the local experts in the hills and washes of Tujunga.

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§ One Response to Standing up for Big Tujunga

  • Rick Grubb says:

    Thank you, and my community welcomes all creek freak’s readers to visit our place on the river that is still wild and free. Take the 210 fwy to the Sunland blvd exit, turn east (right?) and follow Foothill blvd to Oro Vista ave. go left (north) for about 2 miles down to Big Tujunga Canyon road (here you can only go right) and follow alongside the Big Tujunga Wash for as little as a mile and you are pretty much out in the country, yet still in the City of Los Angeles. Continue up to the Big Tujunga Dam (currently undergoing reinforcment and upgrade work) and you are to the Angeles National Forest with several trail heads into the mountains, and a couple picinic sites on the river along the way.
    Please tread carefully in and around the wash, and be aware that many endangered riverine plants such as the Slender Horned Spineflower make their home here and are the size of a penny when young and reach only the size of a quarter when adults so are easily overlooked by the casual or hurried visitor. This time of year the endangered Arroyo Toad (first described from specimens collected in the Tujunga Wash, Sunland) will be in upland burrows they have dug in loose soil, sometimes quite far from the edge of the water, and can be hurt by horses hooves and motorized traffic.

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