Explorations of the Lower Colorado River #2: the River in Yuma

March 30, 2012 § 14 Comments

DWP-Driving while photographing. Looking upstream from Penitentiary Road.

I found myself in Yuma, AZ, looking down the banks of the Colorado River from the old Quartermaster’s Depot, a complex of old adobe and more recently constructed buildings with a bright green lawn in its large central court.  After a long drive through the California desert, the lawn was a little surreal, but not nearly as much as the sight of an irrigation canal I’d seen, flowing at full-tilt, through a nearby residential neighborhood.  It almost looked like any number of our flood control channelized waterways at mega-flood stage – except the sun was shining brightly upon us.  And like the flood channels, the irrigation canal was flanked by an access road and a bike path, although it was lacking the requisite chain link fence that Los Angeles liability lawyers would have no doubt imposed on the canal, as that baby was pumping.  And yet, even with tidy single-family dwellings dotting the street, it seemed barren, lonely.  The streets were absent people – pedestrians, children playing, bicyclists.  It was 70˚F outside.

Standing there, on the banks near a defunct stream gage, the dissonance between the earthtones of the desert, the hard greys and greens of asphalt and concrete and cars and lawn and monocultured lettuce fields, of industrial development’s footprint on the land and on this withered anemic river, whose water seemed almost still, made me a little dizzy.

But, unbeknownst to me, I was fighting a bacterial blood infection (and then some), so if my impressions seem fevered and lurid, well, it may have just been me – or Proteus OX-19.

But back to the river, and the Quartermaster’s Depot.

This, along with an old jail, are two of the oldest buildings in Yuma, on high ground, looking over the Colorado River. The Quartermaster’s is where mules were kept, hauling goods out of the steamers coming up from the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California).

Is the visual of a steamship coming up this channel playing tricks with your mind?  « Read the rest of this entry »

Flowing by the Fairways 2: The Santa Ana River’s Riverview Golf Course

March 27, 2012 § 5 Comments

Egrets along the Santa Ana River in the middle of Santa Ana's Riverview Golf Course.

Kudos to Jessica on yesterday’s post about reaching détente between golf courses and healthy creeks. Her examples are instructive, but there’s at least one more somewhat interesting local example – on the Santa Ana River in Orange County. I alluded to it near the end of this earlier Santiago Creek post; the River View Golf Course contains Santiago Creek’s confluence with the Santa Ana River. It’s located near the intersection of the 5, 22, and 57 Freeways, not far from Anaheim Stadium (map below.) « Read the rest of this entry »

LA Creeks and Golf Courses – flowing by the fairways

March 26, 2012 § 6 Comments

It seems as though there’s almost always a creek on golf courses in Los Angeles – be it natural, concrete or underground.  And having proposed daylighting and restoration projects at a number of our local golf courses, I was happy to see this article, A Stream Runs Through It, published in the Golf Course Industry online magazine, supporting the idea.  I have found that golf courses and streams can coexist, but too often golf courses alter the stream, pushing it over the edge of the property, constraining it in ways that destabilize it, removing habitat, etc.  The management problems are often quite predictable.  The opportunity exists to design a golf course with an understanding of stream habitat and function, leading to a richer golf experience, fewer maintenance issues, and habitat for that remaining 5-10% of LA’s waterways.  Streams can separate greens, but when they traverse greens, they can become part of the play in interesting ways.

A couple of golf course/restoration locations I’ve referred to in Creek Freak posts include  Devil’s Dip (I promise a post on just the golf course and restoration potential there in the near future but here’s a slide from Creek Freak’s recommendations to Mark Ridley-Thomas about it.) and South Pasadena Golf Course.

A famous creek/golf course is the Arroyo Santa Monica through the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Explorations of the Lower Colorado River, #1: Motivation & the Vaquita Marina

March 16, 2012 § 4 Comments

The Lower Colorado River’s been getting some good attention in the media lately(1, 2).  And Creek Freak Josh Link and I have also recently been exploring the river and its issues, and look forward to presenting a series of posts on the topic.

It all started for me with the vaquita porpoise.

In 2005 I was a watershed coordinator tasked with addressing issues of water conservation in the Ballona Creek watershed.  As odd as that may sound to people expecting a watershed coordinator to focus, on, say, the watershed itself, that’s how the grant worked.  Chalk it up to Bay-Delta politics.  That mandate, however, did me an eye-opening favor.  For as much as I understood that most of our water was imported, I’d never bothered to consider how those far-away places were impacted by our big straws.  A little self-education via Google’s search engine opened up a world of dessicated wildlands, endangered species, and amazement at how completely we lack perspective when we talk about water “demand”(1, 2). « Read the rest of this entry »

Cadiz wanna-be water empire gaining steam

February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

Someone drive a stake through the heart of this ecological vampire, once and for all.  Forwarding you today to Chance of Rain:

Cadiz, Inc today announced that it has optioned use of a derelict gas line to ship northern Californian water to the Mojave Desert for long-term storage by….

via Just say no to Cadiz stock tease.

A tale of three wetlands

February 22, 2012 § 21 Comments

Image: City of Los Angeles

Los Angeles proudly unveiled a new 9-acre park in South Los Angeles featuring a wetland that, I’m told, taps into the stormdrain network.  And also receives tap water augmentation (although I don’t have the figures on how much).  This is a $26 million achievement funded via the City’s Proposition O.  The park helps to remediate not just stormwater but also a long-neglected imbalance in per capita park acreage for this South LA area compared with not only other areas of Los Angeles, but also compared to the city’s own planning standards. This constructed stormwater park is being celebrated in the media, here’s a few links:  LA Times, KCET, A/N Blog.  Everyone’s psyched to see a paved parking lot (bus yard) be turned into a natural paradise. « Read the rest of this entry »

Projects Progress in Lincoln Heights and Santa Monica

January 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

Demolition underway at the 6.3-acre Albion Dairy site in Lincoln Heights. Photos taken looking downstream from the North Spring Street Bridge. The existing Downey Recreation Center park (with green lawn) is visible on the far left. The Los Angeles River is on the right, with the North Main Street Bridge visible.

I recently spotted a couple of projects that L.A. Creek Freak has reported on that are now making on-the-ground progress. In Lincoln Heights (photo above) the Albion Dairy site industrial buildings and parking lot are well on their way to being completely demolished. Information on that planned L.A. River park here. In Santa Monica (photo below) the Ocean Park Boulevard green street project is under construction. Information on that complete street project (including its green bike lanes) here.

Construction underway on the city of Santa Monica's Ocean Park Boulevard complete green street project

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.

 

County Supervisors make their mark on the Santa Clara River

October 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

We get so excited about our steps to mitigate (at beaucoup bucks) the environmental harm caused by the historical destruction of our waterways, that we often lose sight of our remaining natural waterways, that are impaired and under siege by ongoing efforts to build on floodplains, straighten, channelize, pond, dam and otherwise alter.  I wonder sometimes if this is because we are more excited by the human handprint on the landscape than we are awed by the natural processes that are greater than us.  Or is turning away of our gaze a kind of fist-shake at nature for being continually humbled?

The Santa Clara River, last natural big river in our region, the one that should be our point of reference for restoring the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, that can really help us to postulate our way out of the sediment dilemma of debris dams and spoiled woodlands to floodplains and sediment transport, will bear new markings of that human handprint.

For new development will soon mark the floodplain of the Santa Clara River at the “Landmark Village.”

It won’t just be the river and its habitat that loses. That river is at risk, and needs a larger community of support to protect it, but don’t kid yourself – the little handprint of Landmark Village can be easily swiped away in a large enough storm, poised as it is on the inside bend of a river that will be constricted by development.  There may someday be a landmark that says, Here Once Laid the Landmark Village. A companion sign to the St. Francis Dam disaster sign much further upstream.  One more ruin in a heritage of hubris.

County Supervisors Knabe, Molina and Antonovich approved the first phase of the Newhall Ranch project.  Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky were absent for this important vote.

In the news:  Landmark Village gets green light – Daily News

Processes of becoming: water and wastewater in some Northwest urban landscapes

October 2, 2011 § 5 Comments

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Last week I spent time in a city where rivers and streams are so much a fabric of the culture, they are a character in public life, possibly even approaching equals along with salmon, Microsoft, clearcut forest, and eagles… « Read the rest of this entry »

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