February 3, 2022 § 5 Comments
Just a quick note to add some perspective to a recent LA Times article about treated wastewater discharged into the LA River and the possibility that this could be reduced. The amount of water in the river in its “beforetimes” has been the subject of quite some argument that sometimes gets trotted out to justify modern decisions. So here’s documentation from the State Engineer William Hammond Hall circa 1877 (Emphasis mine):
The drainage of the Los Angeles river after leaving the Sierra Madre Mountains is received into the large basin of the San Fernando Valley, whose soil is gravelly and porous, but probably underlaid with an impervious substration(sic) of clay or rock , and acting as a great sponge, it holds the water it receives and gives it off slowly. This valley is shut in on the south of the coast range at the foot of which the river runs, finding an outlet through the hills by a narrow gap just above the city of Los Angeles. The streams emptying into the basin are the Paloma, the Pacoima, the Tujunga, and the Verdugo, of which the largest is the Tujunga. Like all the mountain torrents which descend from the Sierra Madre, they have a very rapid fall, and on reaching the valley spread out into broad “washes”, whose beds are composed of boulders gravel and coarse sand. In flow they flow entirely across the valley to the Los Angeles river, but in summer the water barely emerges from the mountains, and sinks from sight in the porous channels. The Arroyo Seco, another large tributary having the same characteristics as the other mountain torrents, enters the river at the city of Los Angeles.
In May last the discharge of the river at the mouth of Tujunga Wash ten miles above the city, where the upper dam of the Los Angeles irrigation system is located, was 24 ½ cubic feet per second. This amount was augmented by about 54 cubic feet per second from springs rising in the bed of the river at various points between this dam and the city. The total available supply therefore was about 78 ½ cubic feet per second. An amount which is but little diminished during the summer months.
Below the city the river is broad, shallow and sandy, and only upon rare occasions does the water ever find its way entirely to the sea, but is absorbed by the thirsty sand.-State Engineer William Hammond Hall Papers, Misc. Working Papers, General Irrigation Info, Reports- LA County (Schuyler)
Which are at the State Archives under AC 91-06-10
(Schuyler FWIW is the actual person taking the measurements and writing the notes…The dam mentioned is near present day North Hollywood. That total flow description is for flow approximately near Figueroa Street in Northeast LA – He doesn’t mention any inflow from the Arroyo Seco, so it’s hard to say if he was measuring above or below that)
It’s a shame the terms of contemporary debate are so narrow that serious people only argue about how much life support (treated sewage aka used imported water) to give the river – if any. In some parallel universe there is perhaps a dialogue being had about recharging groundwater, reconnecting floodplains, and removing or reducing the effect of dams on river flows… but for us, in this universe, we don’t even have in the English language much of a functioning subjunctive tense with which to describe the possibilities that the river (and we) deserve, without being laughed out of the room.
But the subjunctive still gives us this: Long live the river!
September 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times has an excellent article (including a short video) about filming on the L.A. River. (It actually indirectly mentions Ballona Creek, too, as “the river” behind Sony.) (and I need to go see Drive.)
December 20, 2010 § 5 Comments
I’ve been enjoying reading Catherine Mulholland’s William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, published by the University of California Press in 2000. It’s a biography of Catherine’s grandfather William Mulholland (1855-1935) who was the engineer responsible for much of Los Angeles’ early water supply engineering and vision, including our securing of water from the Owen’s Valley.
Here’s a Los Angeles River Christmas story from 121 years ago. L.A.’s creek freaks will know to expect some flooding in century-old Los Angeles River winter tales.
From William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, starting on page 49:
[I]n 1890… [William Mulholland] received a gold watch from a grateful water company [the private Los Angeles Water Company that later became the city of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] for services beyond the call of duty when he had braved the torrential rains of Christmas Week, 1889-1890, to save the city’s water supply. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 4, 2010 § 6 Comments
A perennial management problem for our channelized, dammed river system is sediment. Natural rivers use sediment to shape and reshape their channels and floodplains – in fact the channel dimensions reflect the most efficient way for it to move that sediment.
Funny, ’cause when I look at a map of the Arcadia-Monrovia area, near the imperiled oak grove, I see a lot of very big holes in the ground. (if any aren’t used for water recharge, what’s the big? Store it there, at least until we can get a grip on better ways to manage this stuff) Or consider the salinization problem with soil in our nearby Central Valley ag lands – wouldn’t good soil be a resource that increases our food security?
The fact is, local government is acting like parking lots have more intrinsic value than these oak woodlands, described as being in a canyon – will a stream also be impacted?
Equally disappointing, however, is that this proposal went through a 2-year environmental review process – and made it through unscathed. As much as I appreciate that we even have a public process and environmental protections, clearly they don’t go far enough to ensure that the public actually knows what’s on the table. The news didn’t cover this when it was a proposal, but waited til it was a crisis. And environmental regulations, as I feel I drone on and on about, don’t necessarily protect natural resources so much as lay out a process for evaluating and “mitigating” the loss of natural resources. But how do you mitigate time? It took one century for these trees to grow to the state that we appreciate them today. Streams flow for millenia and then are abruptly filled. And how can you agree that the mitigation will provide the same quality of habitat when 11 acres is being cleared on one site and the mitigation project will take place on acreage half that size with three times the number of trees? How will overcrowding those trees be an effective way to ensure no net loss?
You can let your Supervisor know how you feel about this:
D1: Gloria Molina: firstname.lastname@example.org
SD2: Mark Ridley-Thomas: email@example.com
SD3: Zev Yaroslavsky: firstname.lastname@example.org
SD4:For Don Knabe: Aaron Nevarez handles enviro/public works email@example.com
SD5: Mike Antonovich: firstname.lastname@example.org
San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Last ditch effort to save pristine native woodland from clearance
July 31, 2010 § 3 Comments
Once the EPA declared the L.A. River navigable, the Los Angeles Times’ Louis Sahagun decided to go kayaking.
Sahagun has written a great article and the times photographers and videographers have put it together as a great web extravaganza. The full article appears in the Sunday paper (which includes a big picture of me! – available Saturday) and online here. Here are two brief excerpts – but go to the Times and read the whole thing:
Wolfe’s party took advantage of that legal gray area, launching at dawn on a recent workday in one canoe and five brightly colored kayaks just south of Los Feliz Boulevard in Atwater Village — one of the few stretches of the Los Angeles River that has a soft bottom and still looks like a river.
It is a rambunctious urban patch of rumbling water, serene greenery and occasional homeless encampments, framed by slanting concrete walls rising to electrical power-line towers, set to an endless soundtrack of freeway traffic. Paddling on the murky water, the kayakers surprised hundreds of shorebirds and waterfowl. Huge carp darted past like bronze torpedoes.
June 7, 2010 § 29 Comments
[ERRATA: Photo of Least bell’s vireo was previously erroneously attributed to the LA Times. The photographer is Don Sterba, who also was the person to see and identify the bird. Apologies to Mr. Sterba for the error. The LA Times published his photo with credit, the oversight here was mine.]
Two pair of Least bell’s vireo, an endangered willow-loving bird, have set up camp in the vicinity of the Ballona Freshwater Marsh. Thanks to the Friends of Ballona Wetlands blog and the LA Times for getting the word out! The Times piece also touches on the controversy associated with the freshwater marsh and Playa Vista development. I do disagree with the Times’ characterization of the drainage “ditch” Hughes dug. It may have become a drainage ditch, but early USGS maps clearly indicate that Centinela Creek flowed through the land that became Hughes’ airfield, and the landscape there would have been a floodplain and likely transitional freshwater or brackish marsh area, the “ditch” a functioning creek. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 11, 2009 § 5 Comments
Creekfreak gets a nod in Emily Green’s Dry Garden blog in the online edition of the LA Times today as we talk about how to bring the creekfreak ethos into your garden. Follow the water – and the link – for more.
October 26, 2009 § 4 Comments
Thanks to Creekfreak readers who added so much richness of detail to the post, A tree grows on Beaudry. If you are intrigued by Echo Park’s former Arroyo de los Reyes, Elysian Springs and Woolen Mill Ditch, I recommend you scroll through the comments there. One reader, David Kimbrough, confirmed the rumor of springs at the Elysian Heights Elementary School – near Valentine and Baxter. He followed up by sending Joe and me a fascinating and creepy Los Angeles Times news clipping from 1904, which I am summarizing for you here.
If you’ve ever felt that there’s something slightly haunted about Echo Park, this may be (partially) why.
On the evening of December 27, 1904, Columbus C. Champion, 67, committed fratricide, shooting down his brother Thomas in a “deadly fusillade…in front of the Elysian Springs bottling plant,” for whom Thomas worked as a water delivery man. Columbus, called “Lum,” lived on property next to the bottling company. Due to Lum’s tyrannical nature, “not only were the members of the murdered man’s family in terror of the surly and churlish relative, but the whole settlement in the little valley through which runs the Echo Park electric line seems…to have dreaded some such tragic outcome as that which took place last night.”
Lum had already been abandoned by his wife, son and father several months previously, and neighbors believed it was “worth almost any effort to keep on good terms. It is said he has terrorized the neighborhood on numerous occasions…” Earlier in the day, he fired BB shot at his niece, threatening to kill the entire family, which precipitated the deadly confrontation with his brother.
Thomas, returning to the Elysian Springs Bottling Company, rode his wagon with his son Sam past Lum’s property. “At once the old man rushed out of the house and began to abuse his brother. Sam Champion, fearing for his father’s safety, secured a revolver from the home, and started up to where his father and uncle were quarreling. The younger brother (Thomas) was trying to ward off the attacks of Lum, and just as Sam arrived his father told Lum to go back into his own lot and leave him alone, or he would knock him down. With an oath, Lum started toward the cottage, crying out that he would kill the whole outfit. He quickly reappeared with his gun, and when within twenty feet of this brother fired the load of shot into his breast. Thomas sank to the ground and expired almost immediately.”
The villain was unrepentant and actually joking with the police who carried him away.
September 16, 2009 § 2 Comments
More broken water pipes:
Be sure to check out the comments. Steve Lopez also enters the fray: Awash in trouble, it’s time to spout off at DWP(LA Times).
August 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
Today on page A2, the L.A. Times has another very good article that is likely to appeal to many of us Creek Freaks. Sacramento correspondent George Skelton’s ‘Water buffaloes’ got it all wrong suggests that California’s delta struggles shouldn’t be framed as farmers vs. fish, but more like farmers and fishermen. The article is perhaps a bit human-centric (and perhaps could mention fisherwomen, too,) but definitely worth reading.
Also, folks might want to listen to Homegrown Evolution‘s first podcast, where L.A. City’s Wing Tam and I speak about the city’s rainwater harvesting program. The stormwater story fills the second half of the hour-long audio file.