One district, poised to harm an entire nation

July 27, 2011 § 6 Comments

There’s a lot riding on this season’s federal discretionary spending allocations.  Literally – House Republicans have been attaching riders to the bills moving through the House to block many environmental programs, and some of these riders read like love letters to special interests.  If you are already involved in environmental causes, you’ve probably seen emails or posts about this.

Some of these riders have implications locally – here’s some delicacies from H.R. 2584:

  • If you think the Navigable Waters of the U.S. designation that triggers Clean Water Act protection should apply to our at times flashy western rivers and streams, there is a rider that will restrict the EPA and the Army Corps to Bush-era definitions of navigability, in other words, not cover our waterways if their current designations were challenged.  Remember last year’s victory declaring the L.A. River navigable?  The agencies charged with protecting our waterways wouldn’t have been able to make that declaration under this rider. (See Section 435 of the bill text);
  • The EPA would also be restricted in its ability to oversee how water is used to cool power plants.  The intakes of power plants suck in and kill significant quantities of marine life locally, one of the reasons this affects our local ecosystems. (Section 436);
  • Congress would also require additional studies and delays in the implementation of urban stormwater (runoff) management regulations. (Section 439);
  • Do you have a bad taste in your mouth yet? If you like that special flavor methyl bromide, atrazine, diazinon, or glyphosate adds to your produce, you will like it even more in your water!  (Title V) You can thank Representative Simpson (R-ID) -also the author of the previous gems – for adding a rider to prohibit the EPA from regulating its application and discharge into Waters of the U.S. Not that you will have any Waters of the U.S. in your vicinity anymore anyway.

The NRDC is keeping a running list of the riders* as they bubble up.  Unfettering of agricultural pollution discharges into Florida wetlands; cutting loose on mountaintop coal mining and stream destruction in Appalachia; radioactive waste storage near groundwater that, uh, may feed the Colorado River at the hotly debated Yucca Mountain site; uranium mining near the Grand Canyon; banning restrictions on Great Lakes ballast water that is intended to prevent the spread of invasive species; and several riders that impact, as in halt, the recovery of Pacific salmon are a sampling of the issues that pertain to those of us with national Creekfreak tendencies – and the riders go on and on, degrading our air quality, integrity of land and wildlife management, and of course sticking it to greenhouse gas emissions regulations.

But if you wanted to share your thoughts about these issues with the gentleman from Idaho, who put forward many of these eyepoppers, I have to warn you – his website has a filter to prevent you from contacting him unless you have an Idaho zipcode.  He may represent one district, but he stands poised to harm an entire nation.

*From which I’ve cribbed these notes – with additional info from


Army Corps seeks public input for LA River boating program

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s your chance to weigh in on boating the LA River. Thanks to Lupe Vela at the City of Los Angeles for forwarding the following notice:


The U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers has issued a public notice  to inform the general public that the Los Angeles District of the Corps has received a request to access the Los Angeles River in the Sepulveda Basin for a pilot non-motorized boating program along with permission to charge a fee.  The Corps will evaluate the proposed action along with reasonable alternatives and modifications, under the National Environmental Policy Act ( NEPA) through an Environmental Assessment (EA). The Corps has made a preliminary determination that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. The Corps will consider compliance with other laws, including the Endangered Species Act, in conjunction with this analysis.

Public Comment Period: June 17- 30, 2011- all comments must be received by 6/30/11.

Tentative Boating Program Start Date: July 8, 2011

The following website will take you to the public notice and description of the proposed program:

All comments must be directed to Lisa Sandoval, U.S. Corps of Engineers, 915 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90017  Attn: Asset Management:

If you like more information on the lead organizer of the program, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, please contact
Irene Lopez,
Yasmin Corona,

If you like more information on the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, please contact:
Walt Young:

If you would like more information on the City of Los Angeles council motion on this issue, please contact

Lupe Vela:

Congratulations to all for their hard work on this exciting program!

a river koan

December 17, 2008 § 1 Comment

No Boating, No Swimming, No Wading, No Guru, No Master, No Teacher (from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website)

No Boating, No Swimming, No Wading, No Teacher, No Guru, No Master (from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website)

This week’s puzzle comes from listener David Smith of the San Francisco office of the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s in town and posed the question at tonight’s meeting about Los Angeles River navigability.

A hint: in determining navigability, the EPA considers four factors:

1 – Is there enough water to float a boat?

2 – Is there a history of boating?

3 – Can the public access the waterbody?

4 – Are there plans for improvements in the future that would increase boating?

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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