Recent News – 8 November 2010

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

> Watch the above vid for more green streets meets complete streets – from Portland and Streetfilms. The beautiful rain garden drainage stuff is shown at minute 4:06… but I know many creek freaks will like all the sexy bike boulevard stuff, too. Landscape+Urbanism has some photos – note that Portland is able to retain existing trees on these projects. Here’s a design for a similar bike boulevard project in Los Angeles that would divert cars off to side streets, allow bikes to pass directly through, and would cleanse rainwater, too: (read more about 4SBB here and get involved!) [more cool green street stuff later this week, too!]

4th Street Bicycle Boulevard Catalina Islands - proposal for diverter at 4th and Catalina - image by Aaron Kuehn

> More fun creek freak videos: watch Ballona Creek Renaissance leader Jim Lamm (Culver City Real Estate Voice) and watch the recent US Green Building Council panel ( which we announced here and was reviewed as follows:

I thought it was one of the best USGBC events I have ever been to in this city.  It was really informative …I wasn’t planning on staying as long as I did, but I found myself so engaged with the discussions and didn’t want to leave.

(It was a a great panel, if I do say so myself, though vid may be “tl;dw” for some.)

> UCLA Lab School plans a Stone Canyon Creek restoration planting day later this month.

> The Jewish Journal reports that Heschel School has received a grant for a new L.A. River mural.

> Downtown News reports on the groundbreaking for the downtown’s 7th Street Low Flow Diversion Project. (Announcemed at LACF here.)

The Los Angeles River: The Future is Now - official poster by Oscar Amaro

> Contest! About a week to go to name all the animals in the L.A. city’s L.A. River poster and win framed artwork. Enter your best guess in the comments at LA Stormwater Blog.

>On December 7th, The city of Duarte is opening its new bioswale and outdoor classroom park at El Encanto oops! corrected 11-12-2010: Encanto Park, located on the San Gabriel River.

> KCRW questions the 6th Street Bridge replacement project calling it an uninspired “bridge to nowhere.”


Rain, runoff and surprising ocean springs

October 19, 2010 § 3 Comments

Rain brings runoff to mind. Our concreted river systems shunt large volumes of fresh water to the Pacific Ocean very quickly; historically, the process occurred much more slowly, with infiltration occurring throughout our watersheds, moving subsurface flows of water out to the sea, particularly San Pedro Bay/Alamitos Bay. This groundwater movement created pressurized aquifers – giving rise to places like Artesia.

Consider the following historical anecdotes, from James Reagan’s oral histories taken in 1914:

When General Bouton put down his deep wells the pressure was enough to raise the water fifty feet into the air. On one occasion a well driller had his tools shot out of the well with considerable force… -C.W. Caseboom

Bouton Lake in Lakewood was created by overflow from one of these wells.

The oral histories also tell us of freshwater mixing in the ocean. Back to C.W. Caseboom:

Captain Polhoumas of San Pedro has told me that a ship could take on its supply of fresh water out in the ocean off Alamitos Bay. There was an immense volume of fresh water that emptied into the ocean at that section opposite the Alamitos region. People bathing in the sea at one of these places upon going to the other would at once notice the great difference.

General Bouton’s descriptions suggests that these could have been almost like springs in the sea:

It has been the practice of the fishermen at San Pedro when they arrived at about one mile outside of the beach, and about midway between Long Beach and San Pedro, to lower a jug weighted so it would sinkand corked up so that when it reached a certain depth the pressure would push the cork in, and the jug would fill with pure, fresh water.

There is another place at Redondo where a great supply of fresh water empties into the ocean from the floor or bed of the ocean. There is a great hole in the bluffs in the cliffs near Redondo, where no doubt, fresh water came in from some subterranean waterway.

C.H. Thornburg adds:

In the early days John McGarvin and many others have told me of being able to see the fresh water boil up in the salt water about … of a mile from the shore outside from Alamitos Bay. It was no trouble to distinguish the color of the fresh water from that of the salt water and for that matter, get a supply if necessary…

(At moments like this I wish I were a marine ecologist, to speculate on the likely effect of this mixing on the distribution and diversity of marine life just off our shores)

Many of the old-timers interviewed believed there was no relationship between surface flows in our rivers and their wells. They refer to clay strata for example, that would block migration of surface waters to groundwater. However, our watersheds have diverse soil profiles – for example, the San Fernando Valley is highly pervious. Rain could easily infiltrate to greater depths there than, for example, in more clay-rich Ballona Creek lowlands.

In the short period of less than a century angelenos managed to pump down these plentiful aquifers to the extent that seawater intrusion – the subsurface movement of saltwater into coastal freshwater aquifers – became a serious problem. Today injection wells pump water into these aquifers to hold saltwater at bay. And rainfall – our free resource – isn’t able to plump the aquifers as effectively as it could in LA’s pre-pavement, pre-channelization existence.

Here’s a drop in the bucket contribution you can make: if you own a home or other property, revamp your landscape so it can receive and infiltrate your runoff (aka create a rain garden!). Clay soils? Perhaps a subsurface trench with gravel fill can hold rainwater and allow it to seep into the ground at that slower rate your soil may require.

Creek Freak has covered organizations and examples that you can draw from for inspiration, here’s a few:

Slow the Flow

Elmer Avenue Green Street Explored

Not Enough to Waste

Asphalt to Waterway

Landscapes at Work in Downey

Bimini Slough

Water Harvesting in My Front Yard

Rain Garden All Washed Up

The Ocean-Friendly Garden workshops taking place around town are also a valuable resource for you.

Slow the Flow Video

September 12, 2010 § 7 Comments

“None of it’s [river-friendly landscaping] going to happen just because the city council made a decision that you’re going to do this. It’s going to be really something that people are going to learn to accept because they see that it works.”
-Dave Tamayo, Sacramento County Stormwater Program in Slow the Flow

Slow the Flow: Make Your Landscape Act More Like a Sponge is a very informative well-produced 26-minute video about practices and projects that communities can do to steward our watersheds. Stop reading and hit play!

It’s all about the sort of green multi-benefit watershed landscape practices that L.A. Creek Freak loves to cover: low impact development, rain gardens, swales, native landscaping, permeable paving, cisterns, and more. The video showcases quite a few excellent projects that are easily applicable to Southern California homes, schools, parking lots, etc. The approaches highlighted are very low-tech, green, gravity-fed, habitat-enhancing… and wonderful. And, they give you good reasons to kick back and not rake the leaves or water the lawn.

Thanks to the folks at the State Water Resources Control Board who produced the video, which is available on DVD from their website« Read the rest of this entry »

Elmer Avenue Green Street Project Explored

July 8, 2010 § 20 Comments

AFTER: Elmer Avenue Green Street with bioswales, underground infiltration galleries, solar lighting and more - photo by LASGRWC

A few weeks ago, L.A. Creek Freak had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of the Elmer Avenue green street project in Sun Valley. My earlier post mainly described the opening festivities, with little project information. Today’s article fills in more of the details.  

BEFORE: Elmer Avenue with no sidewalks, no stormdrains, no street lighting - photo by LASGRWC

« Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Gate and Garden

April 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

Fixing the Great Heron Gate

Fixing the Great Heron Gate

Today it’s up-to-the-minute updates on things that Creek Freak covered earlier:

As I was bicycling to speak at an Earth Day event, I passed a Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority crew re-assembling Brett Goldstone’s Great Heron Gate. As I had reported in an earlier post, the gate was damaged, apparently hit by a car. Thanks to the quick quality work of the MRCA, it’s all better now.

I also got a chance today to check in on my friend’s mom’s native rain garden that I wrote about earlier. Nearly all the plants are alive. The snapdragon didn’t make it. The heuchera is blooming wildly, the irises too, and the California Buckwheat is spreading nicely. There’s a wildflower that came up all over but hasn’t bloomed yet – I think it’s clarkia. At nearly three months out it’s looking good, but the test will be getting it through the hot summer without too much or too little water. I’ve been dropping by and watering once a month or so (in between Spring rains.) All these plants and seeds are from the Theodore Payne Foundation native California plant nursery.

Below is a photo gallery.

Alum root (Heuchera) in Bloom

Alum root (Heuchera) in Bloom

Buttercup (yellow flowers) and Alum Root (pink flowers)

Buttercup (yellow flowers) and Alum Root (pink flowers)

Juncus (the tall straight reeds)

Juncus (the tall straight reeds)

View of the Garden Bed (note that it's pretty shady)

View of the Garden Bed (note that it's pretty shady)

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