An Urgent Appeal to the SoCal Fishing Community to Save Arroyo Seco Trout

This small rainbow was caught last year before the Bobcat Fire destroyed the West Fork, closing it into 2022. Several hundred rainbows were transported to the Arroyo Seco for safekeeping. With water levels already very low, this is no time to divert more water for use by the City of Pasadena. (Credit Jim Burns)

UPDATE: The Pasadena City Council hearing has been continued until Monday, July 19, 4:30 p.m.

From Tim Brick, Arroyo Seco Foundation:

We need your help to save Arroyo Seco trout now!

The Arroyo Seco Foundation is working to restore conditions for steelhead in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains. Yes, steelhead – the anadromous form of Coastal Rainbow Trout. We are collaborating with a variety of agencies and organizations on the LA River Fish Passage Program in downtown Los Angeles and on an assessment of watershed conditions in the mountainous reaches of the Arroyo Seco.

Pasadena has prepared an Environmental Impact Report on the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project (ASCP), which will increase water diversions from the Arroyo Seco stream, a major tributary of the Los Angeles River system that is critical to steelhead recovery prospects. ASCP will build a new five-foot dam and diversion facility to divert additional water from the Arroyo Seco stream for domestic use by the Pasadena Water & Power Department (PWP).

The National Marine Fisheries Service has declared the Southern California steelhead an endangered species and prepared a steelhead recovery plan that includes the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River.

The goal of this recovery plan is to prevent the extinction of southern California steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the wild and to ensure the long‐term persistence of viable, self‐sustaining, populations of steelhead distributed across the Southern California Distinct Population Segment (DPS). It is also the goal of this recovery plan to re‐ establish a sustainable southern California steelhead sport fishery.

While the Arroyo Seco was once home to a thriving population of rainbow trout and steelhead, steelhead have been blocked since 1920 from returning to their mountain home in the Angeles National Forest. Native Rainbow Trout have been present since then in the Arroyo Seco, although the Station Fire and the extended drought of recent years have made conditions difficult for those fish.

Based on survey techniques described by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as inadequate, Pasadena’s ASCP EIR states that there are no fish in the Arroyo. Pasadena’s projections for water availability are based on historical weather and streamflow patterns and do not consider the likely impact of climate change. The design of the new dam and diversion structure do not provide for two-way fish passage around or through those facilities nor for an environmental flow to protect the fish and aquatic species during dry periods as required by CA Fish and Game Code Sections 5901 and 5937.

Throughout the environmental review, the Arroyo Seco Foundation has asserted that Rainbow Trout are still present in the Arroyo Seco and that Pasadena has done an inadequate job of finding and documenting them. The ASCP EIR was tentatively approved by a Pasadena hearing officer on January 6th, but ASF joined with the Pasadena Audubon Society and several individuals to block EIR certification by appealing the decision. The matter was then considered in March by the Pasadena Board of Zoning Appeals, which added a few new conditions to the EIR. ASF and PAS again appealed that decision and forced EIR certification to be considered by the Pasadena City Council. A hearing date for that matter has now been set for next Monday, July 12, 2021.

During the appeal period, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that they had conducted a Rainbow Trout rescue program on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River after the Bobcat Fire last Fall. CDFW personnel translocated 469 native Rainbow Trout into the Arroyo Seco canyon in the area to be impacted by Pasadena’s ASCP program.

Faced with irrefutable evidence of the presence of many Rainbow Trout, Pasadena has not changed its position regarding the design and operation of the new dam and diversion structure that they plan to build. They state that when steelhead passage from the Pacific Ocean is restored, they will evaluate various ways to meet the requirements of the relevant sections of the Fish and Game Code.

The Fish and Game Code requirements for fish and passage and environmental flows, however, are not limited to steelhead trout. They apply to any fish as well as to other aquatic species that would be trapped by the PWP facilities. Clearly it will be difficult and expensive to retrofit the dam and diversion facilities at some distant point in the future when the steelhead return. This is the time to do it to protect the fish that are there now and to establish better conditions for the future.

We are disappointed in Pasadena’s cynical dereliction of its environmental responsibility. We believe that Pasadena and its Water & Power Department must be good stewards of the natural resources they exploit.

Send a Letter to Pasadena Mayor Gordo and the City Council Today

We urge you and your organization to send a letter to Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo (vgordo@cityofpasadena.net) and the City Council this week urging them to require PWP to alter the design and operation of any new dam and diversion facilities to accommodate fish passage and to provide an environmental flow during critical periods as required by Fish and Game Code Sections 5901 and 5937.

Please contact tim@arroyoseco.org if you have any questions or need any further information.

Information about the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project – https://www.arroyoseco.org/ascp

How to Contact Pasadena Officials –  https://www.arroyoseco.org/tellthecouncil.htm

Translocation of Rainbow Trout to the Arroyo Seco from the Bobcat Fire Burn Area – http://arroyoseco.org/documents/cdfwarroyo.pdf

LA Times Article – http://www.arroyoseco.org/documents/lattrout20210617.pdf

Native Fish in the Arroyo Seco –

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