Streambank sushi

December 28, 2009 § 2 Comments

Down in Long Beach, streambank stabilization continues.  The Friday before the Christmas holidays, Drew Goetting of Restoration Design Group (in other words, my boss) flew down from Berkeley to train folks working at the El Dorado Nature Center on the process.  Following is a little photo essay on making a willow wattle, for example.

The running joke was how much it was like making sushi.  You lay down your fabric (or seaweed) in a little trench, put in the willow and soil (or rice, fish, avocado…) and roll it up.  Two big exceptions to the analogy:  the wattle needs stakes (we used live willow posts that will sprout into trees) and the sushi roll tastes better.

Soil bioengineering techniques like this have been used for centuries, and have found a resurgence in rural areas of America, as well as in some urban restorations in Northern California.  Willow has long been observed to have tenacious roots that provide natural armoring of streambanks.  And while the roots are strong, the trees themselves are flexible: if they fall over in a large flood, they form a layer that also protects the banks.  But it is important to understand the dynamic interplay between a stream’s structure and how it functions, or forms its channel, however, in order to place these treatments correctly.

Stream restoration projects installed a couple of years ago at the Mountains Restoration Trust (Dry Canyon Creek) and (to a lesser degree) on Las Virgenes Creek also used forms of streambank soil bioengineering – proving that it has applicability here in Southern California.

Stream rehab down in Long Beach

November 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

Here’s a link to a project I’m working on, a rehabilitation of the artificial stream at the El Dorado Nature Center.  Sharon Gates with the City of Long Beach is maintaining the project blog to keep the faithful nature center visitors up-do-date on the goings-on in the stream – the area being fenced off for public safety during the construction.  Check out the progress!

The project will be using soil bioengineering techniques like willow postings, willow wattles, etc to stabilize some of the banks that have been subject to erosion over the years.  Small areas will use rip rap or logs to shore up the banks where there’s a lot of foot traffic up to the edge – we want to keep this to a minimum and emphasize the ability of willow and other native riparian plants to hold a waterway’s banks.  Huge quantities of the invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree have been removed, allowing in sunlight which will help the willow take root.

A lot of folks don’t realize the stream is artificial.  The historical condition of the Nature Center area was likely a periodically inundated alkali meadow or fringe area of the wetlands that today are concentrated around Los Cerritos.  Today’s Nature Center provides habitat for lots of birds, turtles and some mammals (including a coyote, I have heard).

My role in the project is pretty small – Restoration Design Group has me doing some construction administration, answering questions about design intent for the City and contractors, Bubalo Construction, who are implementing the project as a design-build.

Travels along the L.A. River with Briar

August 26, 2009 § 3 Comments

Tim and Briar on the L.A. River Lario Bike Path under PCH in Long Beach

Briar walking (perhaps napping) on the L.A. River's Lario Bike Trail under the Pacific Coast Highway Bridge in Long Beach

Creek Freak is pleased to share the following emails from Tim Kirk who, with his daughter Briar, has been exploring the Los Angeles River. I really like what he has to say (below) about our waterways giving us some sense of place. He says it better than I’ve summarized it – read below.

I present his words here, though I’ve added a few links and interspersed some of his photos. Click on any of the photos to see larger images at Tim’s river photo gallery. Thanks, Tim for promoting my book, so I don’t have to.

In early August I received this email:

“Hey Joe,

Briar's first L.A. River Trip - in Atwater Village

Briar's first L.A. River Trip - in Atwater Village

I wanted to thank you for your excellent book on the LA River.  My daughter and I are walking the LA River in pieces.  We started when she was 5 months old and she is now 15 months.  Our first treks were in Atwater Village and headed south through Frogtown.  We walk 2-3 miles, looking for a place to pick up our trip next time.  Having completed this, we then headed north and, in this fashion, made our way through all the walkable parts of the river up to Lake Balboa.  We did a few side trips to tributaries along the way.

We just discovered your book.  Our good friend, Dominique Dibbell sugggested it (she interviewed you when she was editing the Sierra Club magazine.) It has been a blast to read about the areas we have already walked.  We are now headed south and have done two of your walks (Chinatown & The Estuary).  We are also exploring the Arroyo Seco.

Here is a link to our flckr site with an ongoing photo essay of our journey.   I hope you get a kick out of it.

Thanks again and if you see us walking along, say hey!

Tim Kirk (and Briar). 

and here’s a second email I received in mid-August:

Hi Joe,

We’ve been busy on the river.  We made that final trek down to the bay in Long Beach, which was a blast, and the reason for this note: to thank you for the excellent description in your book of the parking situation, and the byzantine trek from there to the river — I doubt we would have found it otherwise.

Briar along the Arroyo Seco in Highland Park

Briar along the Arroyo Seco in Highland Park

We had a fun hike today.  We’ve been heading north on the Arroyo Seco, and finally connected with an earlier walk, at the Archery range.  Next, we’re going to see if we can find a spot to continue, above the Rose Bowl.  Here’s the link again, if you want to see some pictures

This continues to be a cool experience to share with my daughter, even more so as she gets older — now nearly 16 months.  I know that traveling the river has changed my head significantly, my geographical sense of LA has shifted and I feel a certain sense of connectivity between the disparate parts of the city that the river links.  I’m excited for Briar to grow up with this awareness, which I hope will be part of her identity as an Angeleno.

All the best,

Tim Kirk

Briar rides the Rattlesnake Wall in Studio City

Briar rides the Rattlesnake Wall in Studio City

News and Events – 12 August 2009

August 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

Some recent coverage of items that might be of interest to our fellow creek freaks – scroll down for events:

>The Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog entry Trapping the Rain highlights the Natural Resources Defense Council’s new report A Clear Blue Future: How Greening California Cities Can Address Water Resources and Climate Challenges in the 21st Century. The report  is about Low Impact Development “LID” and how we can build smarter to save water and energy.

>Los Angeles westside property owners can trap your own rain if you apply for the city’s new rainwater harvesting program. If you’re looking to set up your own rain harvesting system (like Homegrown Evolution details here) check out creek freak’s favorite water harvesting expert Brad Lancaster‘s recommendations for selecting the least toxic hose

 >Homegrown Evolution reports on the recent approval of California’s smart new greywater law, designed to make it easier to reuse your greywater. Greywater is “used” water from your washing machine, sinks or showers. Mr. Homegrown will  be teaching a greywater workshop this Sunday – see below. Soak in creek freak’s washing machine greywater system here.

>The San Gabriel Valley Tribune covers the new master planning underway for the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area – 1200 acres where the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo squeeze together behind the Whittier Narrows Dam. Also, the Pasadena Star News reports that the Altadena Foothills Conservancy is doing the early planning work to create a new trail system along the Eaton Canyon Wash, which could connect from the foothills above Pasadena all the way down to the Whittier Narrows.

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

>The Los Angeles County Sanitation District website profiles the Bixby Marshland – a 17-acre remnant wetlands located near the intersection of Figueroa and Sepulveda in the city of Carson. They’re looking for volunteers to help steward the site.

>The City Project is about to unveil new proposals for Griffith Park on the East Bank of the Los Angeles River – a future Los Angeles River park on the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks 28-acre Central Service Yard, located at the end  of Chevy Chase Drive in North Atwater. The city is already planning to restore a small remnant creek in one corner of the site.

>Federal stimulus money is helping make the Los Angeles River healthier (though creek freak would like to see it do a whole lot more!) Funds are being used to provide trash capture devices that prevent trash from getting into the river (via Spouting Off.) They’ll be installed in about a dozen downstream cities from Vernon to Montebello to Long Beach. There’s also some federal funding planned for reworking the “Shoemaker Bridge” where the 710 Freeway crosses the Los Angeles River near downtown Long Beach. The project includes doubling the size of Cesar Chavez Park. Let’s hope that it doesn’t hasten the expansion of the rest of the 710 Freeway – a huge threat to restoration on the lower river

>An odd little video featuring a homeless man fishing by throwing rocks into the Los Angeles River (thanks Jeff Chapman.) See creek freak’s earlier post on fish in the L.A. River

>And, for bridge geeks, Blogdowntown reports on the city of Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Commission instructions for the city’s bridge engineers to consider more preservation options as they plan to demolish (*sob*) and replace the monumental 1932 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The proposal is to widen and straighten the bridge into freeway proportions. Creek freak feels a wave of despair just writing about this wrong-headed project and its “let’s destroy our heritage while bringing way more cars into dense urban areas” mentality. Here’s a grim rendering of the proposed “3-dual tower cable supported viaduct.”

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Upcoming events to explore and get involved with local creek freaks:

>The excellent documentary movie Tapped shows today and tomorrow at the Arclight theaters in Hollywood. Showtimes hereCreek Freak’s review here.

>This Sunday August 16th at 11am, Homegrown Evolution offers a greywater workshop called “D.I.Y. Greywater: Hack Your Washing Machine

>Friends of the Los Angeles River is hosting a few upcoming Los Angeles River clean-ups. On Saturday August 22nd they’ll be at the Sepulveda Basin, and Saturday August 29th at Taylor Yard. There will also be river sites at this year’s Coastal Clean-Up Day coming up on September 19th.

Places to Visit: Dominguez Gap

April 1, 2009 § 5 Comments

Panorama Collage of the Dominguez Gap

Panorama Collage of the Dominguez Gap

It’s getting to be the best time of the year to visit the Dominguez Gap. I was there yesterday with Jared Orsi’s class from Occidental College. There were lots of wildflowers already in bloom – lupines (of many colors), poppies, tidy tips, and quite a few others that I can’t quite identify. The county irrigates the site, so the flowers should be blooming through April and perhaps longer. In addition to the wildflowers, there’s plenty of wildlife. We saw turtles, coots, ducks, swallows, egrets, great blue herons, and green herons.

Wildflowers Blooming in the Gap

Wildflowers Blooming in the Gap

The Dominguez Gap is an stretch of the Los Angeles River located in the north end of Long Beach. The Compton Creek confluence is there (on the west side of the river), but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re likely to miss it. This stretch of river has an anonymous trapezoidal concrete channel, not unlike most of the lower river. In the Dominguez gap, though, there are low earthen side channels running parallel to the main river. Last year, the County Public Works department completed a project that renovated and re-plumbed the side channels, including adding a great deal of native vegetation. There’s interpretive signage, and walk and bike paths traversing the site. For an excellent tour of the site, see the Long Beach Natural Areas blog.

The main 37-acre East Basin linear park area is located on the east side of the Los Angeles River, extending downstream from Del Amo Boulevard to the Metro Blue Line. The Lario Bike Trail runs along it. (On the other, less accessible, side of the river, there’s an additional 14-acre West Basin, though it’s not quite as flashy.)

How to get there:
TRANSIT: Take the Metro Blue Line, exit Del Amo Station. Walk (or bike) a quarter mile east on Del Amo to the river.
CAR: Take the 710 Freeway. Exit Del Amo Boulevard. Head east on Del Amo. Turn right on Oregon Avenue and park.

News and Upcoming Events – March 11 2009

March 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

This week’s leaks that pique creek freaks beaks! (eek!)


>Yesterday in Metblogs, Will Campbell reports that portions of the Ballona Creek Bike Path will be closed and closed some more.

>Yesterday the Eastsider Blog reported that the Los Angeles City Council passed Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes’ motion directing the city’s Planning Department, General Services Department and River Revitalization Corporation to do the groundwork for a Request for Proposals process for the re-use of the Lincoln Heights Jail. The LA City Historical-Cultural Landmark Lincoln Heights Jail is located on Avenue 19 adjacent to the Los Angeles River – a stone’s throw from its historic confluence with the Arroyo Seco. The initial art deco building was built in 1930 with a less remarkable addition tacked on in 1949. The jail has been closed for many years. Its ground floor has housed a few cultural institutions, including the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts, though it’s best known as a film location.

>On February 24th, Daily News reporter explores home damage attributed to construction on the Moorpark Street Bridge over the Tujunga Wash in Studio City. LAist reports that neighbors fear more of the same with rehabilitation of the nearby Fulton Avenue Bridge over the Los Angeles River.

>Speaking of the river at Fulton Avenue in Sherman Oaks, the Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River have their own new website which includes an active blog! See below for their Earth Day Clean-Up event.

>Speaking of home damages, On February 7th, the Long Beach Press Telegram reported the latest in a series of local floods damaging homes in West Long Beach (in the Dominguez Slough watershed.) See also the accompanying photo gallery and the follow-up article. Maybe some multi-benefit watershed management strategies could help break this cycle?

Check out recent LA Times blogs coverage of:
> Restoration at Machado Lake in Wilmington (more-or-less at the mouth on the Dominguez Slough Watershed)
> Opening of the new extension of Ralph Dills Park – located on the L.A. River in the city of Paramount
> Replacing of the 1932 Sixth Street Viaduct over the L.A. River. This unfortunate project proposes to put a contemporary 6-lane highway in place of one of our most historic and iconic bridges. The bridge, undermined by internal chemical issues, does need some work, but stay tuned to see if the city can do something that respects its scale and beauty. (Read the comments which include “Who came up with the bland design for the new bridge?”)

>Want to save energy, prevent greenhouse gas emissions and stem the tide of global warming? Worldchanging reports that conserving water is one of the most effective ways to reduce energy use. This is especially true in the city of Los Angeles where our pumping to deliver our water consumes about a quarter of all the energy we generate!


>This Saturday March 14th from 8am to 2pm, North East Trees hosts a day of service to remove invasive plants from the wetlands at Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Cypress Park.

>On Sunday March 15th, Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR) lead their monthly river walk in Atwater Village. Meet at the end of Dover Street at 3:30pm.

>The L.A. City Planning Department hosts two public hearings about the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan – called the “CASP” (or maybe the CASSP?) The same meeting takes place on Monday March 16th at 3pm and 6pm at Goodwill Industries in Lincoln Heights.

>On Tuesday evenings from 7-9pm March 17th and 24th, L.A. Creek Freak‘s Joe Linton and L.A. Streetsblog‘s Damien Newton will teach our highly-informative internet skills class. Learn how to use easy, free internet applications to promote your non-profit and/or business. Start your own blog!

>Bicycle the Rio Hondo at the unfortunately-named-but-actually-really-fun 24th annual Tour de Sewer on Saturday March 21st.

March for Water on Saturday March 22nd!

March for Water on Saturday March 22nd!

>On Sunday March 22nd from 9am to 3pm, the March for Water will take place. Marchers will walk from Los Angeles State Historic Park to Rio De Los Angeles State Park to raise awareness of bring attention to the present water crisis taking place all over the world, our nation, the state and the city of Los Angeles. Conveners include Urban Semillas, Food and Water Watch, Anahuak Youth Sports Association, Green L.A. Coalition, and many more!

>On Thursday March 26th at 12noon at a Los Angeles Natural History Museum Research and Collections Seminar, L.A. Creak Freek’s Joe Linton will speak on “The Los Angeles River: Its Past, Present and Possible Future.” There’s no cost for the seminar, but if you’re not a member you’ll have to pay to get into the museum.

>On Saturday and Sunday April 17th and 18th from 9am to 12noon, the Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River invite the public to help clean up, mulch, and plant natives at the Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom in Sherman Oaks.

>FoLAR’s annual La Gran Limpieza (the Great LA River Clean-Up) will take place on Saturday May 9th.

>The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition hosts their 9th Annual Los Angeles River Ride on Sunday June 7th.

News and Upcoming Events – December 12 2008

December 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

Lots of fun things happening these days on our local creeks and streams! We’ve varied our format, because there are two important meetings next week that you won’t want to miss:

The city’s proposed River Improvement Overlay or “RIO” zoning (Creek Freak coverage here) will be the subject of a public hearing on Monday December 15th at 8am at Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1020, 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles 90012 (entrance is on Main Street.)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling on whether the Los Angeles River is navigable will be subject of meeting hosted by Friends of the Los Angeles River at 5:30pm on Tuesday December 16th at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, Atrium Room, 570 W. Avenue 26, Los Angeles 90065. The EPA’s David Smith will be present. If you made it through Creek Freak’s 4-part magnum opus on Nexus and Navigability, you’ll no doubt want to attend!

And there’s the recent news:

Kayaker Case Settled: Heather Wylie kayaked the LA River and was threatened with suspension from her job as a biologist for the Army Corps of Engineers. Earlier this week, she settled her case. She’ll be leaving her job and going to law school with plans to become an environmental attorney. Read the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility press release here, and for some background on the case, check Creek Freak’s earlier coverage. Important hearing on navigability next week – see below.

Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council)

Earthen Bottom Stretch of Compton Creek (Photo: Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council)

Comtpon Creek Flowing: The city of Compton and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority are moving forward with the Compton Creek greenway. Read the Los Angeles Wave’s coverage.

Green Advocate Empowered: Mayor Villaraigosa has appointed Green L.A. head Jonathan Parfrey to the 5-member Department of Water Power Commission. Parfrey is a friend of mine, the executive director of Green L.A. Coalition, and a committed and knowledgable environmentalist. Read the LA Times’ blog.

Land Swap Troubled: Remember that Long Beach land swap (Creek Freak coverage here) that preserves the Los Cerritos wetlands? Well, the down economy is impacting it, and the developer is looking to back out. Read Long Beach Press Telegram coverage.

Trout Passage Bridged: Though the fish apparently like it, some Malibu residents are unhappy with the reworking of the Solstice Creek Bridge. Read The Malibu Times’ coverage.

San Gabriel Fished: A new Urban Fly Fishing blog tells us the sweet fishing spots on the San Gabriel River.

Economic Stimulus Greened: In this LA Times editorial, TreePeople’s founder Andy Lipkis urges us to make sure that the federal economic stimulus infrastructure projects are smart and green.

Blue is Green: This New York Times blog proclaims that “blue is the new green” and has some beautiful images of green roofs and walls, water harvesting and gray water.
Río* from B a s t a r d i l l a on Vimeo.

Río Bogota Blues-ed: This video from the band Aterciopelados re-imagines the polluted urban Río Bogota. It’s full of beautiful animated drawings by the grafitti artist Bastardilla. (Thanks to correspondent Federico via the Wooster Collective blog.)

and, lastly, an annoucement:

Creek Freak wants you! If you’re interested in volunteering to help LA Creek Freak get the word out about LA’s worthwhile waters, let us know. We’re looking for guest bloggers that can cover subjects that Jessica and I can’t get to. Also, much needed are photographers! If you can let us use your existing river images, or can go out and photograph sites that we’re writing about, let us know. Email us at lacreekfreak {at} gmail . com!

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