Say ‘no’ to damming the LA River for a water wheel

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Already approved by the LA City Council in 2014, the water wheel depends on water collected behind an inflatable dam. Did anyone ask the endangered steelhead about this project? (Credit Alden)

In an age when the dams are finally coming down, the city of Los Angeles is erecting a new one, if approved by year’s end. Advocates tout this barrier as both temporary and inflatable, instead of fixed and concrete, and its purpose twofold: to create a basin for water to fuel the Annenberg Foundation’s water wheel; and to slow the flow of treated water to the ocean.

I wonder if any have asked those who advocate for the return of steelhead to the Los Angeles River what they thought?

And I wonder, as retired FoLAR luminary Lewis MacAdams was fond of saying, did anyone ask the steelhead? If they are able to ride a winter storm surge from the beach upstream if they’d like to get stuck behind an inflatable, unnecessary dam?

Dams are coming down all over the country. In fact, 72 dams fell last year, according to American Rivers. And when they are blasted back into the dust from which they came, fish return. That list includes Benbow Dam, South Fork Eel River and Old Carmel River Dam, Carmel River, both in California.

Now we read that inflatable dams are a good idea for the LA River because the county has already used them successfully on the San Gabriel River to recharge groundwater. To me, the logic points backward, not forward.

If we want to end up with a restored river instead of a carnival, one that is renewed with native plants, fish and wildlife, one in which children and their parents can enjoy a taste of the actual river environs, instead of concrete, graffiti and drug deals, this leads exactly in the wrong direction.

Ask a San Antonioan how may fish he’s caught in the remade RiverWalk in downtown San Antonio and he will probably tell you how great the jazz clubs along with river are, and how many dining options there are now. And how much real estate value has increased.  As one YouTuber put it:

“There’s no signs anywhere saying you can’t fish there, but it’s frowned upon and not many people have tried. I didn’t stick around too long, I was getting dirty looks from the employees of a nearby bar, and I think they called the cops.”

Maybe that’s fine for San Antonio, but I don’t think it’s OK for Los Angeles. After all, our own recreation zones have only been open for legal seasonal  fishing for four years.

CalTrout recently released a cry for help because Southern Steelhead, currently endangered, will be extinct, along with many other native fish, within a young person’s lifetime. The advocacy group believes 45 percent of them will be extinct – not endangered, extinct – within 50 years.

So, please take a moment to write Mayor Eric Garcetti and tell him you’d rather give steelhead a chance to return to the San Gabriel Mountains than have an inflatable dam further blocking the way. That you’d rather give our youth a taste of the outdoors in our own communities. That you actually do care about the environment over development. Here is his email:

mayor.garcetti@lacity.org

After all, when the Army Corps eventually begins to tear out the concrete near Atwater Village, the true nature of the river can be coaxed back into the 21st Century. As the water temperatures decrease, the chances of introducing native fish increase.

Using artificial means to increase water levels for a water wheel is wrong headed. In fact, like a hamster wheel, it is circling in exactly the wrong direction.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

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Calendar Item: C&R fishing returns to the Bowtie

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Bowtie Field Day
Saturday Sept. 23
3–7 p.m.

Bowtie Project
2780 W. Casitas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Join Clockshop and California State Parks for an afternoon of outdoor activities along the Los Angeles River at the Bowtie Project. This free program is open to all ages, with activities and walks led by California State Parks rangers, Bowtie Project artists, naturalists and educators.

Activities

3–6 p.m.
• Catch & Release Fishing Demos
• Knot Tying Workshops
• Sculpting with Clay
• Plant Pressing Workshop
• Herbarium Demos
• Nature Walk

6–7 p.m.
• REI Raffle
• Campfire Program with S’mores
• Taco Plates Available for Purchase

Stay for an hour, or stay the whole day! Check out contemporary sculpture and historic rail yard landmarks amid thriving flora and fauna at the Bowtie Project.

Parking and restrooms on site. All activity materials provided.

 

Editorial: Let’s not forget, the river must come first

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Click above to watch a clip from KCET’s ‘A Concrete River: Reviving The Waters of Los Angeles.’ (Courtesy KCET)

In our all-too-human rush to progress, unexplored, poorly researched goals can lead to more problems than the fix solves.

How about the car? Sure, it got rid of those messy horses and fly-infested dung piles messing up the roads, but, in turn, we got smog, gridlock and a woeful public transit system from our embrace of the “horseless carriage.”

Or old-school refrigeration? Sure, your ice doesn’t come in blocks anymore, and your meat isn’t spoiled, but CFC refrigerants had to be reinvented to combat a growing hole in the ozone. And that reinvention, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), turned out to be worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

The Los Angeles River no longer has winter flooding, thanks to the work of the Army Corps of Engineers, but we no longer have an actual river running through Los Angeles, nor the ecosystem it supported. And now is the time to ask what kind of solution we will get to the one that fixed the original problem,

In recent years, the river has become a money magnet enabling politicians from Los Angeles, to Sacramento, to Washington. This comment after a July press conference post about the river receiving $100 million in bond funds hit home for readers of this blog.

Mark Gangi says:
July 7, 2017 at 5:08 pm Edit
Just hope they don’t screw up the fishing by confusing what a park is with what a river is.
At first, Mark’s comment seemed so straightforward to me that I missed his point. But it became clear as I listened to this interview with Tim Brick, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation with A. Martinez on KPCC public radio.

Brick wants to restore the ecosystem, so that steelhead can return from the ocean to their mountain home. Is a plan that far-reaching anywhere in the planner notes?

This was also the rallying cry of co-Friends of the Los Angeles River founder Lewis MacAdams. “When the steelhead come home, we’ll know we’ve done our jobs” he would remind basically everyone who would listen. But since his retirement, that lofty goal seems to have slipped past advocacy groups that once rallied around his vision.

At that July press conference, California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) proudly announced that he’d chosen this location, Marsh Park, because it was his first legislative victory. And, good on him. We need to have more public spaces for our underserved communities. But as I listened to one after another of the elected and appointed officials at the press conference, not one mentioned the steelhead trout, or creating an environment for its plausible return.

One hundred million dollars is quite a large sum of money and, as I understand it, the cash will be divvied up through grants chosen by two public agencies, each tasked with creating more green space along the river. That’s all good, but what about the river, itself?

As I say in the clip above, I’ve never caught a cold-water fish in the LA River because they’re aren’t any. The habitat that once supported thousands of steelhead is now so hot only intrepid warm-water fish can survive.

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(Credit Jim Burns)

In 2011, I asked city officials and river advocates about this same topic in “Will steelhead ever return to the L.A. River?”

“The southern steelhead Distinct Population Segment goes from the Santa Maria River in San Luis Obispo County down to the Border.  Say 50-75 years ago, the size of that population run was about 30,000 adults,” said Trout Unlimited’s Chuck Bonham, who will be the new director of the Department of Fish and Game, if his appointment is confirmed by the state senate. If you pull out a map and take a look at the enormous area he’s talking about, it’s obvious that even during the heyday, there weren’t a lot of fish.

Today, those numbers have plummeted in the area and are at zero in the river, itself. Southern California Steelhead have been on the Endangered Species list since 1997. To be put on it, a species must be viewed by scientists as imminently in danger of becoming extinct.”
As select administrators for both the city and the Army Corps huddle over what the redesign should look like, one that will bring more than $1 billion to river restoration one this decade and beyond,  let’s hope that a habitat worthy of steelhead trout is at the top of their agenda, before parks, before soccer fields and before condo developments.

Is it too crazy to ask for a fish passage through all of the concrete up to and including Devil’s Gate dam in Pasadena, the gateway to historical steelhead spawning grounds?

Is it too crazy to give the Los Angeles river mascot “Steelhead Fred” an opportunity to return to his historic home water?

This time we need to take the sober, long view before our “rush to progress” clouds our vision, one in which we return to nature — and to ourselves — what was taken away.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

p.s. Can you find the flaw in the KCET video? Let me know. 

“p.s. Can you find the flaw in the KCET video? Let me know.”

Looks like a steelhead SALMON to me……