Speaking up for Hetch Hetchy Valley

December 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

What do you tell a major, environmentally and socially progressive metropolitan area that drowns Yosemite’s twin valley for its water and electricity?

NBC interview with Restore Hetch Hetchy Board Chair Mark Cederborg and Executive Director Mike Marshall.

Restore Hetch Hetchy!

That’s right, San Francisco gets its water from the Hetch-Hetchy Valley, part of the Yosemite Park System. Legislation was passed that enabled a dam to be built on National Park land early in the 1900s. But San Francisco can manage its water supply without this dam. In the same way that most Angelenos don’t know where their water comes from, or the impact it has on those places, most San Franciscans don’t know their water comes from Hetchy Hetchy either. They don’t know that John Muir’s heart broke when he lost the political battle over the valley, or that today Senator Feinstein could be a game changer for its fate…but isn’t interested. And I’m guessing that most folks in the Bay Area don’t know that when you look at the residential water use outside of San Francisco County (with an admirable per capita consumption rate of 68 gallons per person/day), you find veritable water hogs on a par with or even exceeding Los Angeles, viz. San Bruno: 95.4 gpp/d; Stanford University: 107 gpp/d; Redwood City: 130.5 gpp/d; Palo Alto: 203.8 gpp/d; Menlo Park: 338.9 gpp/d! (Follow this Sierra Club link to page 5 for a list.)

Advocates from Restore Hetch Hetchy came down to LA and brought a film festival together at AFI two weeks ago. They noted that Los Angeles responded to statewide public pressure (and litigation) and pulled together to save Mono Lake, and that we’ve successfully held steady our total water consumption rates despite population growth. Thanks for the nod, Bay Area peeps! They are hoping that Angelenos will take an interest and step up public opinion to remove the dam at Hetch Hetchy – and after being ribbed over the years about how LA is “stealing all the water” how many times? I’m sure we’re willing to oblige for a good cause.


Tales of Tujunga

November 18, 2008 § 4 Comments

I know, most of my posts are tales of our waters, but it is something special to be able to sit down with an old-timer whose childhood included explorations and adventures in the days before concrete.  I met Don Mullally a month or so ago, at one of the public meetings for stream protection.  He was a fierce advocate for protecting our remaining waterways, and had extensive knowledge of the streams and trails in the Santa Susana Mountains.  I told him I wanted to interview him about the LA River, and he went above and beyond, writing his memories down for me.  I will present them, with additional notes from our conversation, over several posts.  Don was born in 1929, and has lived his life in the LA area.  His recollections on birds of the LA basin will also be published serially in the San Fernando Valley Audubon newsletter, Phainopepla.

Recollections of Don Mullaly:  North Hollywood and Tujunga Wash

Path of Don's childhood recollections on Tujunga Wash.  Compare his description with what's here today!

GoogleEarth image of path taken by Don and pals up the Tujunga Wash. Compare his description with what's here today.

From 1943 to 1945, Don and his boyhood friends would take streetcars from West Hollywood over the Cahuenga Pass to North Hollywood Park, near Magnolia and the I-170 today. From there, they would hike up Tujunga Wash to approximately where a May Company (now Macy’s, he believes) was later built.

“The Tujunga Wash…ran across the San Fernando Valley to the western side of the Park. It probably received storm water runoff from Pacoima Creek, Little Tujunga Creek, and Big Tujunga stream. The Wash was approximately 100 yards wide and when dry resembled a desert with very few trees and patches of low shrubs; buckwheat, I believe.

Our goal was to reach the Wash. Once there, we walked upstream or north searching for whatever animals lived in it. The Wash was flanked by wide open spaces having very few and widely separated houses. Observed in the Wash were rabbits, quail, mourning doves, small birds, and lizards. Also one huge green headed bullfrog washed down from some distant pond…

Within a mile or two an abandoned gravel pit was soon discovered on the eastern side of the wash. The pit contained a lake occupied by ducks and mud hens (coots). On one occasion a group of the mud hens was noticed to be foraging beyond the shoreline. Having read that these birds sometimes froze in place when surprised, I rushed down a slope onto the birds. One became immobile, was captured, and taken home. It proved to be of little interest and was released.

On two visits I brought my trusty Daisy BB Air Rifle. A couple of roosting quail and a dove were shot dead, taken home, and eaten for dinner…

On one visit I found Tujunga Wash in flood stage. The river was large and fast moving with trains at least three foot high standing waves in the current. Across the river a house was balanced on a bank: half over the water, and half on land. (Don later stated that he learned to stay out of the washes during rainstorms from this experience.)

On rainy days sea gulls flew overhead the length of the river. I once tried to shoot some down with bow and arrow. Strings were tied to te back ends of the arrows. No luck. As a youth I was a predatory Daniel Boone!”

Hidden Creek Estates

October 16, 2008 § Leave a comment


2003 photo of stream in Brown's Canyon watershed

2003 photo of stream in Brown's Cyn watershed.

At last night’s Stream Protection meeting, an elderly gentleman in the audience mentioned a proposed development, Hidden Creek Estates, in Mormon Canyon, which would be annexed by the City to make the development possible. Mormon Canyon drains into Brown’s Canyon, a beautiful perennial stream that is a tributary to the LA River (and apparently source of the LAR Navigable Waters Jurisdication Determination kerfuffle – well the owner of Brown’s Canyon, that is).  Both were hit by the recent Sesnon fire.  

2003 view of the area

2003 view of the area

Hidden Creek Estates proposes 188 homes in a wildlands area, apparently re-grading hillsides of the Santa Susana Mountains to keep the development on higher ground.  It would be nice to see developers maintain the natural character of our mountains and canyons, something called landform grading – here it appears the slopes will be levelled and stabilized, on perfectly even slopes.  You know, the kind you see around landfills and subdivisions everywhere now.  

landfill grading aesthetics at neighboring Porter Ranch

Background: landfill grading aesthetics at neighboring Porter Ranch

But this is a creek blog: fortunately it appears that the streams will not be built over, although one small area of the proposed development map appears to grade over one of the streams, where perhaps a bridge could be used.  Altering the hillslopes does change the sediment supply that maintains the stream’s channel and habitat, however.  The draft EIR proposes Best Management Practices to mitigate runoff, which is great, but we don’t want to cut off sediment altogether either.  But what of the wildlife?  What we are left with is a conversation of how much more of our biodiversity we can cut into.  Remember in Math class, there was this idea that you could infinitely divide something in half, and never reach zero? We are now reaching into the terrain of several 00’s after the decimal.  I sometimes wonder how much land wildlife would allocate to us, if they were the planners and developers and we were at their mercy.  Would they say, as we do, “well, as long as we preserve a representative population, it’s ok to reduce their habitat. I mean, how many of them do we need to maintain biodiversity anyway?”

Click to enlarge. Original image converted to gif (hence black background).

Grousing about Hidden Creek aside, at least it doesn’t take the top off a mountain and dump it in canyons, like we see here in this cut and fill diagram for Mountain Gate, in the Santa Monica Mountains above Bundy Canyon in Brentwood.  You can view the actual draft and final EIRs here, click on Environmental, Final EIR and scroll to Mountain Gate.  While you are at it, scroll on over to the Canyon Hills Final EIR in the Verdugo Hills, which, while preserving one stream, will result in the loss of some of its tributaries, which are noted for their good representation of increasingly rare Southern California riparian (streamside) habitats.  Which brings us back to Math class.  How many times can we divide 1/2?

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