Ballona’s historical ecology – and new awesome map site

January 23, 2012 § 7 Comments

As many of you probably already heard, last week the Coastal Conservancy approved up to $6.5 million to complete studies and permitting for the Ballona Wetlands.  If that price tag for planning is giving you sticker shock, I have two words:  Army Corps.  Actually more than two words – you see, one alternative proposes removing and relocating the levees that currently contain Ballona Creek’s flows from spreading over the wetlands.  (You know, the way in undisturbed situations fresh water from a stream or river normally spreads over wetlands, making the land, you know, wet.)  And removing and relocating levees is sensitive business, and an involved regulatory process that has to be paid for and that can rapidly add up to a big chunk of the $6.5m.

That’s just the regulatory/cost barrier.  Some people are concerned about the potential flood risk to humans, while others are concerned about the flood risk to…the wetlands.  This has been an ongoing debate, and while it’s not the point of today’s post, I think we’ve got new information that can help us all consider the alternatives – as well as create new projects.  Back when I was watershed coordinator, I felt the conversation about the watersheds could be elevated if we had a better handle on the historical ecology of the watershed.  Agreed-upon, documented sense of what natural processes shaped the habitats of the watershed, and what had actually been here.  I drafted a proposal for this study, as well as an assessment of the watershed’s springs/water budget, both of which got funded and managed by others later.

Look at all those wetlands! (click to redirect to the Ballona Historical Ecology website).

And the historical ecology report is done, and is beautiful!  Props to the team comprised of CSUN, SCCWRP, SFEI and UCLA researchers!  « Read the rest of this entry »

Stormdrains from Tar Pits to Ballona

December 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

Los Angeles County Storm Drains in Google Earth

Since this post about tar on Ballona seems to have generated a lot of interest, I thought I’d also provide you with an image of LA County Storm Drains from the Tar Pits connecting to Ballona Creek.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Going bonkers over the brea in Ballona

December 4, 2011 § 18 Comments

$2 million worth of funny. Click to enlarge. Map: Jessica Hall. Base Image, GoogleEarth.

Oh boy.  It’s amusement vs. aggravation here at LA Creek Freak, as I struggle to find adequate words to express how I feel about this much-forwarded LA Times piece about an oily sheen on Ballona Creek. « Read the rest of this entry »

Duck Die-Off on Ballona Creek

August 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Creekfreaks, sad news of a duck die-off on lower Ballona Creek, same general vicinity as our last post on Ballona.  That’s all we know at this point.  Lisa Fimiani, Executive Director of Friends of Ballona Wetlands sent the word out to Ballona Creek Stakeholders – follow the jump for her email. « Read the rest of this entry »

A stench that’s hard to swallow – unless you’re a swallow

August 2, 2011 § 5 Comments

Runoff from a culvert into Ballona Creek. Photo: Rick Pine

Thanks to an email chain, I’ve been following this latest issue on Ballona Creek.  A culvert connecting to lower Ballona Creek has become a bubbling cauldron of trouble.  The culvert drains portions of West Los Angeles, as far north as Washington Boulevard, and joins Ballona Creek west of Centinela Avenue.  Observers on the bike path noted white liquids discharging to the creek, setting off an email chain to identify the fluid and the source.  It has taken a few months for an understanding of the source to emerge. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sedimental nostalgia on Ballona Creek

May 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

A few posts ago I mentioned the Rain Gardens being built on Ballona Creek. I am working with the contractor on the project, and so have been fortunate to observe the stages of implementation.  We are still weeks away from completion.

Cobble and sand deposits, Ballona Creek flood control right-of-way.

Several weeks ago I took a walk along an excavated area of the right of way. These excavations will be filled with a soil-compost mix in terraced bioswales. But the walk along this opened-up bank was oddly poignant, revealing layers of Ballona Creek that had itself been excavated and then piled up here. The sense of Ballona as a once-natural watercourse became more tangible seeing pockets of cobble and sand that must have been in the creek’s bed at one time, carried from the Hollywood Hills, tossed and gently moved over decades until deposited out of the channel to build up the flood control channel.  It was as moving to me, imagining the life that once flourished here, and as haunting as visiting the ruins of Chaco Canyon or any archeological site.

This bit of geology will be closed back up soon as walls are built up, filled and planted.  But perhaps someday those cobbles will be free to roll down a restored river – when we’ve finally embraced our waterways as part of the urban fabric.

Maybe someday.

Chunking concrete on Ballona Creek

May 5, 2011 § 2 Comments


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Is that concrete coming out of the channel? Almost – but no enchilada.   But doesn’t this visual of big equipment removing concrete chunks  just fuel the imagination, gladden the heart, enliven the spirit… well, maybe only for a select cadre of oddballs such as myself and maybe you.

 Hanford ARC is building stormwater raingardens along the top-of-channel easement of Ballona Creek, a project funded by the Santa Monica Bay Restoraton Foundation (via your federal ARRA dollars), brainchild of Mark Abramson, and following the spirit of the Ballona Watershed Task Force’s Ballona Greenway Subcommittee and the Ballona Creek Greenway Plan. So there’s no change to the channel itself.

But back to the concrete. The contractors, while excavating the upper banks for future terraced walls that will capture and treat drainage from 22.5 acres, came across concrete – lots of it, as you can see here.  Surprise! And in a few months there will be a native garden, another step towards a greener Ballona Creek.

Local Tsunami Images

March 15, 2011 § 3 Comments

With the gravity of the situation in Japan still very much on the mind, here’s some imagery of the tsunami reaching local shores, perhaps more of a curiosity (the film-makers are relatively light-hearted, probably more a counter-reaction to local hype); but for me, a reminder that powerful forces can touch us from far away.

On Ballona Creek, by AmericanFilmProdComp

At Catalina Harbor, by Isthmus101

Where would I be without Facebook (and “real-life”) friends like Sabrina Drill and Jeff Chapman who post these links? Thanks!

Recent updates: a victory, a Greenway Plan, and a continuance

March 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

A Greenway Plan: Adams Flood Control Channel aka Arroyo La Cienega, "on punk rock," to paraphrase a friend. Image: Joshua Link, Ecotone Studios.

A victory, a Greenway Plan, and a continuance helped to define recent weeks for this LA CreekFreak.

First victory. Altadena bloggers and residents celebrated the award of funding for acquisition of land in Rubio Canyon, preserving public access and restoration of some land there. Congrats to the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy for the State grant and successful coordination effort to bring it all together.

A Greenway Plan! More about this in a separate post. A personal project spanning five years, first as Ballona Creek Watershed Coordinator and later as a landscape designer, is finally complete and posted for public view and use. The Ballona Creek Greenway Plan resulted from stakeholder creek-walks and design charettes, strategy sessions with Natural Channel Design and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission staff, and hydraulic modeling and design work of the Restoration Design Group team.  Downloadable at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission website.

And a continuance. The Stone Canyon Creek hearing has been continued for a month or more. Thanks for the letters written by community members, agency reps and the kids at University Elementary School, whose school sits on the creek at UCLA – this is not over yet! And also, thanks to the student and community volunteers – including rumored hungover frat boys – and SMBRC staff who have been working hard to restore Stone Creek on the UCLA campus.

Knocking down harmless art on Ballona Creek

February 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Regular users of the Ballona Bike Path next to Marina del Rey are probably familiar with the little stone cairns down by the water’s edge. Or were – they apparently have merited the attention of the Flood Control District, which is now going to knock them down if they haven’t already.  « Read the rest of this entry »

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