Creek Freak’s Top Stories of 2011

December 31, 2011 § 5 Comments

The four L.A. Creek Freak blog writers: Jessica Hall, Joe Linton, Joshua Link, and Jane Tsong.

It’s Jessica here, summarizing the thoughts of the bloggers Joe, Jane, Josh and myself about our biggest stories of 2011.

But first, I want to take a moment to note that on a personal level, 2011 marked my decade as a Creek Freak.  In 2000 I’d begun mapping LA’s waterways, but it wasn’t until I, with a team of three other landscape architecture graduate students, had completed Seeking Streams that I realized I’d been hooked by the desire to bring buried waterways back to the surface of LA.  It’s been a decade of ideas & argument, at times petty politics, and for me, standing on the outside of bureaucracies with the power to restore our landscapes, feeling like I was staring up from the base of Hoover Dam.  But on the other side of that wall are gradual changes in watershed management, still rooted in a philosophy of nature control, but testing how controlled habitats can be better managed alongside more traditional engineered structures and approaches.  I’m still waiting for that leap to working with natural processes – treating the flood channels like the streams they were.  It will happen someday.  But the fight has been good for me too, it forced me to hone my understanding of how streams function, to understand the genesis of undesirable flooding and erosion, to better relate the role of waterways within an ecosystem.  Our ecosystem.

I believe restoration and protection of waterways happens in places like Portland, Seattle, Boulder, Austin because the waterways supply their water (or are the early-warning system of their aquifer) and because enough people understand ecology and have some experience and appreciation of natural processes in their lives to demand restoration and protection.  A version of the Boulder story I read once stated that they ran the Army Corps out of town when the Corps came offering channelization.  A citizen-led initiative led to building restrictions over Austin’s aquifer recharge zones, and citizens informed the planning processes in Seattle and Portland that wrapped endangered species recovery in a package with Clean Water Act water quality commitments.  In LA, we mostly defer to experts.  We eschew big ideas unless someone from higher up the political hierarchy proposes it.  We sigh at the tangle of bureaucracy that makes it phenomenally difficult (and expensive) to get even a small plot of land planted, a bit of roadway striped for bicycles – something that definitely succeeds in keeping us focused on the short-term.  And we fight.  We fight opportunism of a few powerful people er, corporations, who profit by threatening our community dreams, something that also keeps us focused on the short-term, on triage.  (As members of our community, these “people,” er corporations, should share our vision.  Which vision, you ask?  Good point.)  And we fight each other.  If we have a common vision, and I’m not sure that we do, it lacks ecosystem function.

Let’s celebrate our steps towards sustainability, but with a solid vision that includes the regeneration of our degraded riparian ecosystems.  May our steps be clearly towards support of our incredible natural heritage, the biodiversity that supports us.

And with that… our top 10 stories of 2011.  « Read the rest of this entry »

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