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.
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.
Check out this documentary, Sunday, May 28, 3 p.m. on KCET-HD. The producer interviewed me about fly fishing, and I missed it the first time around (The down side of being too anxious to get rid of your cable TV!). All I know is legal fishing season is almost here, starting in the recreational zones Memorial Day. Get your rod, reel and license and get on out there!
Here’s the blurb:
“A Concrete River: Reviving The Waters of Los Angeles” chronicles the importance of the Los Angeles River culturally, economically and ecologically. Supported by a matching challenge grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, this special telecast takes viewers on a historical tour of the Los Angeles River starting with the native Tongva tribes that lived along its banks before the Spanish arrived, all the way through to the present day.
Co-hosted by Armenian filmmaker Carla Garapedian (Assoc. Producer, “The Promise”) and actor Raphael Sbarge, the special presentation of the documentary treats viewers to various popular activities along the LA River including bird watching, kayaking and fly fishing. The 51-mile-long concrete water basin protects the city of Los Angeles from seasonal floods and, with the enthusiasm and support of many Angelenos, the river is roaring back to life.
Fall fishing, for me, is the best fishing. Maybe I love it simply because I love the fall — the blistering So.Cal. sun takes an occasional break; football is back; and, I don’t know, turning leaves, colder nights, a moon that seems clearer, nearer.
So last weekend my wife and I escaped to Mammoth Lakes for the first time in a couple of years. I’d been alerted to the stocking of Hot Creek — the So. Cal. holy of holies — by John Tobin, Pasadena Casting Club’s conservation editor. When he told me the California Department of Fish and Game planned to release more than 6,000 fish. I wasn’t sure what to think. My impression over all these years was that Hot Creek contained only natives.(We can talk about natives, browns, rainbows in another post.)
When I asked my buddy, who would also be in Mammoth, if he wanted to fish Hot Creek, he declined because they were stockers. I mulled, I brooded, I went to the local fly shop for guidance, where a guide told me that Hot Creek Ranch had laid down the law — either stock, or the property would go up for sale. I haven’t confirmed that statement with the owners, but it made sense. A business owner has to have a profit base. Without the base, what’s the point?
A recent CDFG press release confirms this woeful condition: “For unknown reasons, the Hot Creek fishery appears to have declined substantially in recent years, with markedly lower catch rates and few trophy (>18”) fish coming to the creel. Drought-related impacts are the suspected cause, including low flows, lack of flushing flows in late spring/early summer to mobilize fine sediments and expose spawning gravels, potential changes in water quality/chemistry and increased aquatic vegetation.”
Then there is the fact that Hot Creek is a designated “wild trout water.” Why would you stock it and allow it to retain that designation?
The press release goes on to say, “While it may appear counter-intuitive to stock a designated Wild Trout Water, California Fish and Game Commission Policy allows for such stocking under specified terms and conditions. The Commission Designated Wild Trout Waters Policy, under subsection I.B. states that designated waters should be: “Able to support, with appropriate angling regulations, wild trout populations of sufficient magnitude to provide satisfactory trout catches in terms of number or size of fish.” Subsection II.A. states: “Domestic strains of catchable-sized trout shall not be planted in designated wild trout waters.” And Subsection II.B. states: “Hatchery-produced trout of suitable wild and semi-wild strains may be planted in designated waters, but only if necessary to supplement natural trout reproduction.”
Anyway, after cuddling the condo’s trout pillow that night, I decided to try my luck. All I can say is within 15 minutes of trudging down the dirt pathway and moving past a guide untangling a client’s bird’s nest, I was into a fish. He was sure he owned the run, and I was sure I would soon own him. A longer cast with my old Sage SP 3 wt., rigged with 5x, and a sparsely tied elkhair caddis and the fish was on, fighting, running — then hiding in the red flowing weeds.
One in the weeds can ruin your whole day. If you can’t see him and can barely feel him on your line, then disaster may be tapping you on the shoulder. It was only through hard-won weed experience on our own LA River that I brought him to net, snapped a selfie, and let out a good, old-fashioned “whoop, whoop.”
It was a very good day, but I wonder, do you support stocking a Wild Trout Water?
Please take this very quick survey.
I have been fishing Hot Creek for 30 years. The stream has been devastated by the drought. Very few anglers even bothered to fish Hot Creek over the last year or two because of the lack of fish. The trout that were stocked are diploid fish and will reproduce in the stream and hopefully restore the stream to its past glory.
A little known fact is that the stream had previously been stocked, both on the ranch and in the public water until about seven years ago. At the end of the season the hatchery would dump its excess fish into the creek and a former ranch manager many years ago, before Kevin and Bill, stocked on the ranch. So, the creek has never been a pure wild trout fishery. After a year in the stream a native strain stocked fish will behave wild and except for the clipped fin is almost impossible to tell apart from the native ones. The stocked fish off-spring will truly be wild. I for one am very grateful the the DFW for stroking my beloved stream.
See you on the river, Jim Burns