Single-use plastic straws may join plastic bags in LA

An estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste pollutes the world’s oceans each year. (Courtesy Panorama Magazine)

In 2010, after falling in love with the LA River, I got worked up about plastic bags and was mostly happy to start carrying my own to the grocery store. There was a howl of protest as the plastic consumer noose tightened, first with California cities creating a patchwork of regulation, then counties, and finally voters approved a statewide ban in 2016. Now, if you want a bag at the store, it will cost you 10 cents. 

Back then, I wrote: 
As a fly fisherman, you know you’re sick and tired of seeing trash in the Glendale Narrows, especially after a storm. So it should be worth it to either take your friggin’ bags with you on grocery runs, or pony up the dime that grocery stores will be able to charge for green bags.

Next up, single-use plastic straws. Yesterday, the LA City Council voted 12-0 to move forward to ban them by 2021. Reversing the earlier governmental patchwork plastic bag trend, the city council action comes before a statewide ban goes into effect Jan. 1, one in which you’ll have to ask for that straw. In what could be a game changer, and will incur the wrath of the fast-food industry, the Los Angeles ban could include fast food outlets, which, incredibly, are currently exempted by the upcoming state law

Responding to pressure from a proposed European Union ban, McDonald’s has already tested paper straws in Great Britain and Belgium, according to the Business Insider.

Single-use plastic straws may be banned in LA. (Photo illustration courtesy of Panorama Magazine)

Then there’s the microplastics issue, in which fish digest small amounts of plastic that then never leave their bodies, causing a host of problems, including organ damage and reproduction. And, if you eat fish, you may also be eating plastics.

As a fly fisher who has walked our river in hope of a better future, I know we can do better.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

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Hey, where’d my run go?

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Here’s the view Saturday afternoon from the Hwy 2 overpass looking south into the LA River. Note that there’s been grading activity on the eastern side of the riverbed.                           (Courtesy Steve Kuchenski)

Pasadena Casting Club Conservation Committee member Steve Kuchenski and I talked about this at the Faire yesterday in Glendale, and he was nice enough to share this image with readers. Several times, places I’ve loved to fish on the LA have either been disrupted by Army Corps bulldozers, or swept away in high flows, due to winter rains and a lack of actual riverbed structure. Anybody remember the great bass disappearance from a few years back?

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: High Country News weighs in on LA River revitalization

In a gem of a piece, photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra chronicles the species loss the LA River has suffered since being encased in concrete with photographs of specimens from the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology and the LA County Natural History Museum.

An important photo essay as our city weighs the future of the river in terms of development and habitat restoration. A sample:

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Western Toad (Courtesy High Country News)

Western Toad (Bufo boreas) —  Perhaps no animal is as emblematic of the decline of native species in the decades following channelization as the western toad. One of the neighborhoods adjacent to the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river is still known as “Frogtown,” for the swarms of young toads and Pacific treefrogs that hopped through the streets each year until the 1970s. Today, toads and frogs are rarely to be found.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

East Fork SOS: Where Have all the Fish and Anglers Gone?

By Tom Walsh
President, Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps

Repetitive comments from anglers, who have fished the East Fork of the San Gabriel River over the past five years, have indicated that there are no fish left. Based on 1,261 CDFW Angler Surveys over the past 15 years, anglers reported catching 10,901 fish. However, during the past five years only 777 fish have been caught, with only 11 being caught in the past two years.

What are the reasons for this significant decrease? Over the past five-to-12 years there are a number of events that have contributed to the loss of this fishery:

— 2005 – Twelve-year drought reduced total rainfall by 43.6 inches (3.6 inches/year) below 140-year season average.
— 2008 – Downturn in the economy brought an increase in encampments to the East Fork backcountry.
— 2008 – Price of gold hit all time high increasing from $769/oz. in 2007 to a high of $1,987/oz. in 2011.
— 2008 – Began removal of 20,000 tamarisk plants (One plant consumes up to 200 gallons of water per day)
— 2010 – California Department of Fish and Wildlife terminated fish plants on East and West forks to abide with court ruling.
— 2014 – High rain event on Aug. 3 bought significant amount of sediment downstream with large fish kill.

Of all of these events, the mining activity has been the most damaging, which has increased significantly, with the rise in gold prices, the promotion by mining guides via social media and the lack of enforcement of the mining prohibition.

The negative impacts to the stream and its riparian areas resulting from the mining activities are numerous. Large amounts of material in the stream and riparian areas are being moved to create dams, dredging holes and long diversion channels for sluicing, resulting in heavy silting, reduction in water flow and the interruption of the entire ecosystem. FRVC volunteer stream patrols have documented the loss old growth trees along the stream banks, permanent campsites within 50 to 100 feet of the stream, large amounts of equipment and trash from abandoned campsites, and the use of motorized dredging equipment.

In October 2010, the California Fish and Game Commission designated the East Fork from Heaton Flat to the headwaters as a Wild and Heritage Trout Stream. This designation includes 33.6 miles of perennial stream habitat, and is one of only 12 watersheds in the state with this designation. Unfortunately, the CDFW management plan has not been published or implemented.

This once-prominent fishery, which has been abandoned by almost everyone, needs the support of the Southern California fishing community.