Tree: a novel born of a Southern California watershed

February 21, 2018 § 3 Comments


Part 2 of books practical, lyrical and celebratory. Today’s offering:

The Lyrical: Tree

Tree’s author, Melina Sempill Watts, dedicated years to enhancing the Malibu Creek and Santa Monica Mountains watersheds through her work as a watershed coordinator at the Resource Conservation District there. She worked with stakeholders to support projects, obtain funding, and educate the public about protecting the treasured mountain resources that so much public money has preserved.

With the debut of her novel, Tree, Sempill Watts shows us just how deeply she treasures those resources as well. While a single California Live Oak tree is the story’s protagonist, the world of the watershed unfolds and adapts, it burns, floods, thrives, and reluctantly submits to asphalt and lawn. It is not only the history of our landscape – including our rivers and streams – but also of our interactions with it, and the hopes and heartbreaks that we imprint onto it. And as our shorter human lives intertwine with Tree’s arching narrative, our aspirations, our births and deaths fall into the rhythm of nature. The story of Tree is a story that includes us. « Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Lawsuit against Malibu lagoon restoration fails

October 28, 2011 § 67 Comments

Creekfreak readers may recall we’ve written about the proposed restoration of Malibu Lagoon – so just a quick update, Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith sided with the state, allowing the restoration to move forward.  I hope that we can save the state additional attorney’s fees by letting the dust settle and moving on with the project.

News links:

LA Times 

Malibu Patch

Announcement 11 November 2011 – from Joe & Jessica – We’ve closed the comments on this post – for two weeks worth of cooling off. We love L.A. Creek Freak as a place where folks can discuss L.A. Creek Freak stuff… so we encourage comments – as long as they’re civil and more-or-less on topic. The comment thread on some stories degenerates into not so civil, and not so on topic. When the disrespectful language gets going too strongly, we unpaid volunteer bloggers jump in and try to get folks to be respectful… then the topic threads become a critique of what a bad job we’re doing moderating the discussion. Sometimes then when we don’t approve comments right away (because we’re doing our jobs or just don’t have the interest in parsing through the unpleasant stream of comments), frustrated commenters follow up with accusatory emails to us. This isn’t really what we signed up for, nor do we feel that it’s what L.A.’s creek freak communities need right now. We’d rather be doing stuff that we have ganas for (and/or what we get paid to do) and not refereeing judgmental commentary… so we’re taking a roughly two-week break on comments on this story. During that time we hope to go back to actually writing creek freak stories! Thanks for your patience.

Geeking out on gages in the rain

December 20, 2010 § 6 Comments

Curious about the rain? Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has a fun online site for monitoring rainfall.

Screen shot of County's Precipitation map. Click image to get to live updates.

You can also go to the USGS website to view real-time stream gage data. Here’s a couple of examples:

Malibu Creek stream gage. Note high so far is about 3000 CFS.


Los Angeles River at Sepulveda Basin. High flow so far - +/- 8000 CFS (cubic feet/second).

Neither of these highs strike me as particularly high flows, despite all the storm-of-the-decade hyperbole. But it is interesting and useful to monitor the changes.  If you are seriously geeking out on this stuff and have a mac computer, you can also download stream gage widgets here.

No Way Out Video: Scary Concrete Rivers

December 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s the wet season, so I figure it’s a good time to share the video No Way Out. Part 1 is above; part 2 is after the jump. The video was created in 1993, largely in response to the February 12th 1992 drowning death of a San Fernando Valley 15-year-old named Adam Bischoff. Bischoff, pictured below, is one of dozens of youth who’ve lost their lives in Los Angeles’ concreted waterways. « Read the rest of this entry »

Downloadable “creekwatch” application

November 22, 2010 § 5 Comments

Doing the rounds recently is this link to a free Creek Watch application for iPhones and iPods, developed by IBM. It allows users to upload a photo and data to a common map, recording data about flow, trash, or other observations. Developed for the State Water Control Board, most of the posted observations seem to be in the Bay Area. Let’s get some LA sites on the map!

Thanks to the various folks who forwarded this link to me, including Boyd Waters and Karina Johnston.

L.A. County Bans Plastic Bags

November 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

Plastic bags caught in trees in the Los Angeles River's Glendale Narrows - photo from Nature Trumps

Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 to ban plastic bags. The ban takes effect July 2011, and only applies to unincorporated county areas, including East L.A., Altadena, Rancho Dominguez, Hacienda Heights, and similar unincorportated locations. It does not apply to cities within the county, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, etc. This is great news, given the way that plastic bags plague our urban creeks and rivers. Creek Freak doffs our cap to Supervisors Molina, Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky who passed the county ban.

Read more bag ban specifics at Spouting Off and the Los Angeles Times.

From paperwork to project: Malibu Lagoon restoration approved

October 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

The title says it all, folks. I received a text that it was a unanimous yes vote for the lagoon restoration project. Congratulations to the project proponents. We’ll be checking in on its progress from time to time.

Showdown over Malibu Lagoon

October 12, 2010 § 14 Comments


From paperwork to project? We'll see... Click on image for link to Coastal Commission staff report on Malibu Lagoon.)


Tomorrow is the big showdown at the Coastal Commission over Malibu Lagoon’s restoration plan. There’s an odd volley of objections out there. My favorite in the absurdity category is that it’s like playing God by the Malibu Times’ Publisher Arnold York. What exactly were we playing at when we filled the original wetland? Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold details the rest of the objections and puts forward his response on Spouting Off. I encourage you to give it a read.

We’ll see how the commissioners respond to this onslaught of objections picking away at a restoration plan that focuses on removing human disturbances and impacts to a natural system and creating a structure for natural processes to maintain. I favor this approach because it is ultimately self-maintaining for habitat, and rebounds best when disturbances (like floods) occur. The lagoon’s current configuration does support some habitat, but anthropogenic issues that affect its health are well documented.

Restoring Malibu Lagoon

September 26, 2010 § 43 Comments


Malibu Lagoon, 2008. Image: Google Earth, 2010.


Back when I was involved in native planting projects and miniparks along the rights-of-way of flood control channels, I sometimes worried that people would get too attached to those things – to the extent that they’d not support restoration of the channels if it meant losing their minipark (any restoration would require us to widen the channel within the right-of-way). Would people object to bulldozing a created upland habitat to re-establish riparian habitat? That may seem like an overblown fear, but I see that reflected from time to time in environmental debates. There are good reasons for keeping some things the way they are, but sometimes there are also important reasons to make changes. The currrent reflection of that for me is at the Malibu Lagoon. « Read the rest of this entry »

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