September 29, 2011 § 7 Comments
Last Tuesday (9/20), the Council for Watershed Health (formerly the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council) hosted a creek-freaky event entitled Shifting Soil: Sediment Management Policies in Los Angeles. While I was fortunate enough to be in attendance, it has taken some time to digest all that was discussed and to place in context all of the remarks that were made. The following is my best attempt at a summary including a few thoughts on the topic. For further reading, have a gander at Mademoiselle Gramophone’s in depth coverage (including video and audio snippets) or visit the Council’s event archive for downloadable PDF files of each presentation. A friendly forewarning: this post is a lengthy one… « Read the rest of this entry »
May 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Creekfreaks who enjoy (if that’s the word for it) my regular call (rant?) for floodplain reacquisition may find this Washington Post article gratifying.
Thanks to Melanie Winter of the River Project for forwarding the Wash Post story, and Jeffrey Jones for the Bay Delta report news. To echo Mel, a functioning LA River floodplain – especially in the San Fernando Valley – would benefit our local water resources as well as bring back habitat and create recreational areas.
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?
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.
February 27, 2010 § 4 Comments
A very interesting day! We visited several sections of the Eagle Rock canyon on a quest to find sycamores that predate development. It is amazing that despite the scale of engineering and earthmoving that resulted in 1.) the building of the 134 freeway over foothill terrain 2.) an entire complex of utilities related buildings and an access road to Scholl Canyon Dump being built over the streambed– that the stream continues to flow, as if nothing has ever changed!
All this urban complexity means that the landscape around the stream appears radically different (if it’s above ground at all) in different places. Depending on where you are, you might only see concrete under your feet and utility lines overhead. In another section, you might look down from the road and see sycamores growing near the base of steep canyon walls.
The most idyllic part of the canyon is the far upper reaches, which still show a similar same palette of vegetation as recorded by a crew under Wieslander in 1928, save for some very old introduced trees.
I was thankful to be with plant people. Barbara Eisenstein pointed out monkey flower, and Ceanothus crassifolius, which was in full bloom.
It was amazing to think that only a couple generations ago, this same mix of vegetation extended all the way down the canyon past the Eagle Rock. This reminds me of the passage by Helen and Francis Line, who lived right at the Eagle Rock, from January 1945:
Shortly after we moved here to our home last January 26, the buckthorn bloomed. It has come early this season and the hills are already turning white again. Each of the eleven months that we have been here– save one or two– has seen wild shrubs and flowers in blossom;– the buckthorn, monkey flower, buckwheat, toyon, and wild tobacco.
By a wonderful stroke of luck, we also met someone who knew about the history of the canyon, who offered information to corroborate something told to me by one of Eagle Rock’s most illustrious oldtimers. More on this later.
The lower part of Eagle Rock Creek, which used to be the central feature of a well-known local park is described at Myriad Unnamed Streams.
January 6, 2010 § 10 Comments
This is part two of a posting that describes the Artesian Belt in San Gabriel from West to East. For the introduction to this section, click here.
Grading and Draining: the transformation of the Shorb Ranch
The property we know as the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, was once part of the famed ranch of J. De Barth Shorb, named San Marino. We are fortunate that relatively detailed documentation of the property has been preserved, giving us an intimate view of shifts in land use during the intervening century. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 28, 2009 § 3 Comments
But not in a Twilight Zone kind of a way! I am giving a talk at the Farmlab/Not-A-Cornfield space, located next to the historic Cornfields aka Los Angeles State Historic Park.
When: Friday October 9, noon
Where: 1745 North Spring Street, Unit 4, LA 90012
Under the umbrella of Los Angeles & Water, I’ll probably touch on all my favorite subjects – water, Los Angeles, creeks, urban design, political will, birth control…
Come on down!
September 25, 2009 § 2 Comments
(acknowledgments and thanks to Emily Green of Chance of Rain blog for being the primary source of information for this piece)
Do you know where your water comes from?
I expect most of you do. Besides our local groundwater (which probably supplies 10-15% of the water we as a basin consume), our water is shipped from far-away watersheds, the sources of which are magnificent mountain ranges like the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies.
But the source of your water may soon be the desert.
Along came a gentleman aptly named Brackpool, who acquired a vast swath of land in the Mojave Desert. His proposal might sound like squeezing water from a rock, yet offered water managers some reliability: he would use the Mojave River aquifer as a recharge basin for Colorado River delivery in wet years, and sell both this and the native groundwater for our use. This is the crux of the term “water banking.”
Ever been to the desert? I don’t mean the baking-hot Target parking lot on La Cienega, but a real desert: somewhere like the Mojave where the rare river is a lifeline for the species that depend upon it. Lined with desert willows and cottonwoods. Point is, you suck down that aquifer even a little bit and those trees will die, as had been happening on the Rio San Pedro in Arizona, as happened here in the LA Basin when we got pump-happy at the turn of the century, and well, almost everywhere in the West.
Brackpool’s proposal got shot down earlier this millenium as its claims were questionable and the environmental impacts considerable, but he’s back – and now has the Governor’s support. His investors have kept him afloat for years but with this support his stock shot up.What’s more, LA Observed reports that he’s been vacationing with our mayor(who was his consultant at one time), and another one of his former consultants (who was also sitting on the PUC) is now the Gov’s chief of staff. The Gov also just nominated him to the California Horse Racing Board. Oh, and now his company, Cadiz, is not just about water banking – but also renewable energy and conservation. He obviously hasn’t been reading the High Country News reports (“High Noon” and “Solar Sense” for example) on the conflict between solar and wind farms and desert conservation.
This is David and Goliath, where Goliath has taken a page from Freddy Krueger and keeps coming back. Please take the time to follow the news on this story, and if this touches you, get involved. Emily Green at the Chance of Rain blog has done excellent research and is keenly following this story, and LA Observed and the LA Times is also staying on top of the political relationships. With a packed slate of investors and politicians on Cadiz’s side, it’s hard to believe the desert will come out of this fight untarnished.
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).
May 1, 2009 § 16 Comments
The stream mapping is complete, but that image of a stream’s flow spilling over and down a road stays with me, challenging the conventional wisdom about “urban slobber.” If you’ve ever been out to the Kuruvungna Springs at University High School in West LA, you’d know that springs gush forth thousands of gallons of water every day, and this water doesn’t stay on site – what used to feed a stream now flows into a storm drain that feeds into the Sepulveda Channel and then Ballona Creek. Other springs on site are directly capped, with only a manhole cover to hint at its presence. So it’s not just headwater drainages whose flows get lost to these underground conveyances, it is also springs, and yep, LA still has some.
Old stormdrain maps sometimes can offer clues to the capped springs. This image here is of a “spring relief” area in the Silverlake/Franklin Hills area. I have seen a few – not many – of these areas on these old maps.
Don’t get me wrong – plenty of urban slobber really is overspray from urban slobs. But if we manage the springs’ flows that way, we miss something essential and precious about our native ecosystem, and we miss out on opportunities to restore pockets of habitat in the city. And you know, springs hope eternally.
April 9, 2009 § 1 Comment
Starts at home. At the water meter. LA City staff proposed a tiered water rating system, in which if a user exceeds a certain volume of water consumption, they go up to a higher rate for the additional water use – and City Council shot it down. Unanimously. This time (sounds likely they’ll be another round).
LA Observed thought this deserved attention, and so do I. Maybe the Times will report on it tomorrow?
While I am a supporter of tiered water rating, there’s also an equity issue – how do you fairly charge by household when some households have 1 person and others have 4 or more? We can come up with nonintrusive but potentially unfair (as above) methods with flat water tiers (you consume over X gallons total, you go up to the next rate) or we move into some complicated and potentially intrusive methods, counting members of households etc and allocating a base volume from that (I just made that method up, btw, as an example of an intrusive but fair way to do that. I don’t know what was actually proposed by the City).
What do you think? (and please don’t say desal!)