At its recent quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board approved approximately $28.7 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California, including one for the Los Angeles River, according to its website.
A $1.4 million grant to the Council for Watershed Health for a cooperative project with the city of Los Angeles, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, the Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco Foundation for a planning project to provide designs, permits and environmental review for addressing impaired mobility for southern steelhead trout and other native fish along more than four miles of the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles’s twin challenges of building more housing while restoring its namesake waterway are clashing along a shady 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River between downtown and the hills of Griffith Park.
On a 7-acre parcel in that stretch, a developer wants to build the riverfront’s first major development, Casitas Lofts, a 419-unit mix of mostly upscale apartments, offices and restaurants bordering neighborhoods on the east side of the river, Glassell Park and Atwater Village.
The Los Angeles River continues to be scalding hot, and that’s not just the summertime temps of the water. Two big river events in two days this week, the official groundbreaking for the Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, followed by the sixth annual River Day at City Hall.
The city has worked on being “riverly” since — 1988 — according to former Councilmember Tom LaBonge who retired in 2015. It’s been a long road with our community still waiting for promised federal dollars to the tune of $2.6 billion to restore the river’s habitat.
Let’s count down what’s happened since the last River Day. The slogan could be “connect, don’t neglect” as underserved communities regain the connections lost to the construction of a concrete flood control channel:
— Four new and-and-bike friendly bridges to connect communities: Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, North Atwater Village, Red Car Pedestrian Bridge and Verdugo Wash Bridge that will connect Glendale to L.A.
— Friends of the Los Angeles River’s celebrates the 30th annual LA River Clean-up and begins #CrackTheConcrete fundraising campaign. It’s a classic FoLAR campaign that is pro Taylor Yards/G2 River Park and its long-promised habitat restoration and con Casitas Lofts, a 420-unit housing development.
— Opening of Albion Riverside Park in Lincoln Heights.
— $18 million in state funding for a continuous bike path along the river. Remember, this is a 51-mile waterway.
— Last week the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $500,000 to help clean up the polluted soil of Taylor Yard/G2.
— Councilmember David Ryu takes on chairmanship of river committee from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.
“Some day the LA River steelhead will come back,” Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said at the river celebration, echoing what FoLAR co-founder Lewis MacAdams said for many years to anyone who would listen.
In another first, the advocacy group Friends of the Los Angeles River has installed three tubes for fisherfolk to safely discard used line in selected spots along the river’s upper banks. Trout Unlimited provided the funding, while both Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell (13th District) and the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council provided their political imprimatur.
“We support FoLAR taking a stance on discarded fishing line, while educating anglers who are new to fishing the L.A. River as well as the anglers who have fished the river for decades,” wrote AVNC co-chairs Torin Dunnavant and Courtney Morris in their letter of support.
Both the AVNC and O’Farrell’s office cited a trigger event for better line management, the death of a Great Blue Heron, called Fred by locals, who was caught in fishing line, seriously injured and subsequently died as marine biologists attempted to nurse him back to health.
Monofilament may seem harmless enough, but it represents both an eco-hazard as well as a possible deadly ensnarement for the wildlife so abundant on the river. According to FoLAR, birds can be attracted to the fishy smell on used line, then become hopelessly ensnared while digging for it in convention trash cans. Also, monofillament does not degrade over time leaving what amounts to an ageless hazard if not dispossed of properly.
As awareness has increased among state agencies, fishing clubs and individual anglers, these recycling tubes have become more common on streams. For example, a tube sits next to the angler survey box at the beginning of the catch and release section of the West Fork of the San Gabriel, a popular area for local flyfishers.
Each week, the tubes’ contents will be sent to the Berkley Conservation Institute in Iowa. The company, which produces conventional fishing line, recycles used line into 4-foot cubicle fish habitats it calls “Fish-Habs.” According to the company’s website, since 1990, BCI has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line. That’s enough line to fill two reels for every angler in America.
At the close of recreational zones on Labor Day, the program results will be re-evaluated to measure impact and the tubes could become a permanent fixture on the river.
Currently, the tubes are located at the Glendale Narrows Dover Street river entrance in the yoga pocket park, Acresite Street and FoLAR’s own Frog Spot. Future rollouts include the Bowtie Parcel and Marsh Park, if the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority that patrols the area agrees.
Fishing has only recently become legal on the river, during a certain time — Memorial Day through Labor Day — and within certain places, the carefully defined recreational zones below Fletcher Bridge, the so-called Elysian Valley River, and in a stretch in the Sepulveda Basin River in the San Fernando Valley. The fact that the pilot line recycling tubes lie outside these boundaries speaks to the growing number of anglers who search for the best places to fish, regardless of geographic boundaries.
“As the LA River is reborn, it needs the help of a variety of river huggers: fisherfolk, bird watchers, dog walkers, nature strollers. It’s important that everyone who has a particular interest respects the interests of others, and lost or discarded fishing line can ensnare the birds and other creatures that call the river home,”” Robert Blankenship, president of Trout Unlimited’s south coast chapter, said. “We encourage all fishermen to discard used line in the collectors, and would appreciate anyone who sees old fishing line in the river area to please use the collectors as well.”
With the upcoming river cleanup happening Saturday, it’s an appropriate time to check in with California State Senator Kevin De Leon SB1201, a bill that could bolster efforts to open up the Los Angeles River for lawful recreational uses, such as fishing. For context and the finer points, read this excellent summary from Legal Planet, a collaboration between UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law. The site defines itself as “providing insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy.”
As a fly fisherman, here’s my beef in a nutshell: I’m tired of being in a legal access morass as soon as I cast into the water.
“We want to see legal access to the river for kayaking, fishing, and swimming. This won’t be the panacea that changes the river over night, but it will create a legal basis for people to come down to the river, FoLAR’s Lewis McAdams said to the wonky The Planning Report late last month.
“Fishermen have been ticketed. The City just uses a loitering ticket because they don’t have any L.A. River tickets. Of course it usually gets thrown out, but people have to spend the day downtown dealing with it. We want people to feel that the river is open. When I started Friends of the Los Angeles River, my first official act was cutting a big hole in the fence, declaring the river open. It’s only taken 25 years to get to this point. We’re at the point where the river is about to be opened, and we’re pushing the door gently open wider.”