In every bottle, a creek…

February 2, 2017 § 4 Comments

arrowhead-bottle-with-springs-list

Next to the snow-covered mountain on each Arrowhead bottle, is a list of “mountain springs” within.

The Arrowhead landmark in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The actual Arrowhead landmark in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

In every bottle of water is a creek, and there is actually a good chance it may be a California creek, as the map in this link indicates: “Lots of your bottled water comes from drought zones.”

This is something I think about every day when I walk by the water dispenser at my office. I look at the snowy mountain top on the label, and mentally compare it to the actual Arrowhead landmark, in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, which I drive by each week. This iconic landmark is made of coastal sage scrub plants: white sage, black sage, california buckwheat, and others (Meek, 2007). Ironically, what makes the arrow stand out from the surrounding chaparral is the grey foliage that advertises the ability of these plants to survive drought.

Our remaining native ecosystems hang on a very delicate balance, and surface water and groundwater play an important role in maintaining this balance. This is just one of the reasons I feel alarmed when I see the list of “mountain springs” listed on the side of Arrowhead bottles. Because I suspect the other places on this list do not look anything like the snow-covered mountain on that label!

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Steve Loe, a retired San Bernardino National Forest biologist, speaks to a packed house.

Last Sunday, I went to a community hearing sponsored by The League of Women Voters and Save Our Forest Association to learn how Nestlé’s extraction of water from the San Bernardino National Forest impacts Strawberry Creek, its riparian ecosystems, and our local groundwater. Speakers addressed a packed house at the Senior Center in Twin Peaks.

Strawberry Creek is the creek associated with Arrowhead Springs, after which Arrowhead water is named. It is located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Over the last 68 years, Nestlé extracted an average of 62 million gallons per year from wells drilled into the upper watershed of Strawberry Creek. According to figures presented at the hearing, this is over 5% of the safe yield of the entire San Bernardino Basin, which supplies the cities of San Bernardino, Riverside, Redlands, and others. Even in the midst of a multi-year drought, in 2015, Nestlé extracted 36 million gallons.

Nestlé’s extraction of millions of gallons per year occurred even as residents and businesses were required to restrict their own water usage.

For this amount of water, the company paid only $524 each year. One speaker said this came out to $3.65 per acre-foot of water, which the company then sold for 100,000 times that amount.

36  million gallons extracted in 2015, in the midst of a multi-year drought, means that much water did not make it to the creek. This means all of the plants and animals that once lived in the creek are short that much water.

Loe made it clear that the “mountain springs” of Strawberry Creek are not artesian springs which leap out the ground. Rather, they are horizontal wells drilled over 500 feet deep, maximizing groundwater extraction in the creek’s upper watershed, before water even gets to the creek. The drill sites are so dry that no riparian vegetation appears in their vicinity.

Nestlé claims to only extract water that is in ‘excess’ of the Forest Service’s current and foreseeable needs.

Given the outsized importance of riparian habitats in contributing to local biodiversity and providing regional ecological connectivity,  Loe asked, can one say there is excess water when a creek is close to its lowest flows on record? Species that depend on riparian habitat are at low population levels, and others historically associated with the San Bernardino Mountains, have disappeared. Loe believes Nestlé’s extraction of groundwater was a contributing factor in the disappearance of Santa Ana speckled dace, a native fish species, from the area after 2003.

In a statement by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff, and Courage Campaign Institute, Eddie Kurtz wrote, “The U.S. Forest Service has been enabling [Nestlé] to destroy delicate ecosystems in the San Bernardino National Forest for 27 years, and it has to stop. Our government won’t stand up to them, so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”

List of demands, where "FS" means "Forest Service."

A list of demands. Note that “FS” means “Forest Service.”

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The co-sponsors of Sunday’s hearing: League of Women Voters of the San Bernardino Area.

I always love the Desert Sun’s coverage of environmental issues: Bottling Water without Scrutiny.

Meek, N. (2007). Origin of the Arrowhead landmark near San Bernardino, CaliforniaCalifornia Geographical Society.

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Found in the San Bernardino Mountains…

Coyote Spring, Inyo County, one of the springs listed on the Arrowhead label.

Coyote Spring, Inyo County, another of the springs listed on the Arrowhead label.

Places to Visit: the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and the Bridge to Nowhere

August 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

The Bridge to Nowhere over the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, photos by Carrie Lincourt

Last week, a friend and I took a really great hike up the East Fork of the San Gabriel River to the Bridge to Nowhere. It’s an excellent local day hike (9.5 miles round trip) that I highly recommend, though it’s probably best done during cooler seasons – say between late September and early June.  « Read the rest of this entry »

What would Snow White say? Disney Ranch to culvert a small stream and cut down 158 oaks

June 4, 2012 § 5 Comments

Snow White’s animal pals are going to be missing some of their woodland at the new Disney campus:

“The Project would require the removal of 158 County Ordinance-protected oak trees, including 16 heritage oak trees, and encroachment upon an additional 82 oak trees, including 3 heritage oaks…” (EIR, V.F-72)

“The Project would permanently impact approximately 0.08 acre (1,181 linear feet) of ACOE/RWQCB jurisidictional area…The Project would permanently impact 0.63 acre of CDFG jurisdictional streambed and associated habitat…” (EIR, V.F-81) “ACOE/RWQCB jurisdictional area” is jargon for Water of the US/Water of the State-admittedly, more jargon.  In other words, blue line stream.  You may observe here that status as a Water of the US/Water of the State doesn’t ensure protection, despite many characterizations to that effect, when environmentalists battled to preserve the designation on the LA River.

Existing mapped floodplain area (Zone A at left) to be reduced through Development Area.

Also, while this is most likely the FEMA 100-year storm floodplain shown on this map, as creekfreaks already know, floodplains are an essential part of the stream system, reducing the space for it has negative consequences for stream health.

This, as the High Country News recently remembered the loss of the Arcadia Oak Woodlands, albeit for a different reason.  I am grateful that we’re not arguing about Placerita Creek.  But loss of tributaries and confining the main channel’s floodplain are worrisome.  I don’t have time to read and interpret the entire EIR just now, so just letting you know that this on the docket.  AND if you are in the Santa Clarita area, there’s a hearing tonight (June 4) about the project:

6-9PM

Hart Hall

Hart Museum and Park

24151 Newhall Avenue

Newhall, CA 91321

The public has until June 18 to communicate your thoughts on this.  Include photos of an angry Snow White.  Or maybe her evil stepmom (and not the glam one in the theaters right now), standing in the middle of her new ranch.

Comments go to

Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning

Special Projects Section, Room 1362

320 West Temple Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

or email ctran@planning.lacounty.gov

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

Based on this piece in the Whittier Daily News, Snow White’s pals will also have to hop around oil rigs on open space purchased with allocations from the County of LA’s Proposition A, which is a funding source designated for recreation, parks, and open space.

Where’s Princess Mononoke when you need her?

Cyclist Creek Freaks: Steward Malibu Creek June 23 2012

May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Volunteer crews at an earlier Mountains Restoration Trust Malibu Creek event

If you bike and you want to help out Malibu Creek, then here’s an event for you. On Saturday June 23rd from 9am-12noon, the Mountains Restoration Trust and Heal the Bay are hosting a work day to remove invasive plants at Malibu Creek State Park. Malibu Creek is one of the last remaining steelhead trout streams in Southern California.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on a One-Way Morro Bay Watershed Sign

May 9, 2012 § 7 Comments

I just returned from a very enjoyable vacation in San Luis Obispo, California. I stayed in downtown SLO and, a few times, bicycled out to the Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, about ten miles away. As I was bicycling west on Los Osos Valley Road a cresting a ridgeline, in the midst of agricultural fields, I saw this sign along the highway:

Watershed signage along Los Osos Valley Road

It reads “MORRO BAY ESTUARY WATERSHED / KEEP IT CLEAN / ENTERING.”  « Read the rest of this entry »

Urgent action needed: identify City of LA creeks for protection under ordinance

March 7, 2012 § 5 Comments

Creek Freaks, I am posting this message on behalf of Shelley Luce, Executive Director, and Mark Abramson, their Senior Watershed Advisor.  They need your help by Friday March 16.  I have my own comment to add following their request:

Send us your Streams and Creeks!

Calling all Creek Freaks! The Santa Monica By Restoration Commission needs your help identifying and locating streams and creeks in the City of Los Angeles. The City is creating a stream protection ordinance designed to protect the few remaining healthy creeks within the City limits. They have requested a list of streams and creeks that should be protected. We are asking all our friends and creek enthusiasts to send us pictures and locations of creeks within the City so that we can ensure their protection. If you have a favorite creek spot that you feel warrants protection please send the location (preferably latitude and longitude, a picture, and any information that you might have about the stream or creek. The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission will then visit these sites and compile a list of streams and creeks that should be protected for the inclusion in the City of Los Angeles’ Stream Protection Ordinance.  Please send any information to  smbrc@waterboards.ca.gov using the subject line Protect this Stream. Your efforts will help protect these few remaining special places for generations to come. « Read the rest of this entry »

Hope takes the 3:10 to Yuma (and the lower Colorado River)

December 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Speaking of the lower Colorado River, check out this wonderful video giving some historical context, issues and hope:

Click on image for link to video.

The rebound of bird species is particularly notable with this restoration project, where the prior, degraded, condition included filled channels, disconnected wetlands, and a lack of natural flooding resulting in the loss of habitat diversity and a thicket of non-native species.  Reflecting on some local arguments, I see that a combo of hand labor and big machines were used, dredging for floodplains and re-establishment of channels.  Restoring flooding with “industrial style” restoration with adaptive management techniques might not always be so bad after all…

For more info, here’s a slide show and an article in the journal Ecological Restoration.

Thanks to Fred Phillips, a Flagstaff-based landscape architect, who shared this link about his work with me when I went to visit the Friends of the Rio de Flag earlier this year.

 

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