William Deverell, a historian at USC and the director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, recently penned this editorial in the Los Angeles Times. He skillfully recounts how the concrete-encased LA River came to be, but does deeper than other writers.
According to Deverell, the research for the U.S. Army Corps final work came from old-timers. Tasked with creating a profile of the river, two engineers asked these old people what it was like to grow up in the region before statehood, before the Gold Rush, even back to the Mexican and mission period.
“The people they interviewed were nonwhite: indigenous, Mexican, mixed-race mestizos. (No whites, or at least a very few, had memories that stretched back far enough to help.) These elders knew the river; it ran through their memories and lives. They grew up near it, but not too near, lest wintertime floods wash away their adobes. They drank from it, as did their livestock. They irrigated their crops from the zanjas they had carved from it. The river was lifeblood, the defining feature of the landscape.”
Yet this research from seemingly egalitarian roots was later used to create a river not for the people, but for those with money, power and clout.
As we near the approval of the renewal design plan, he advocates we not make the same mistake twice.
Thanks to Steve Kuchenski of the Pasadena Casting Club Conservation Committee for passing this along.
This story from the Ventura County Star has gone viral in the last several days, according to Pasadena Casting Club’s John Tobin. As the club’s conservation editor and an enthusiastic environmentalist, he was excited by the sighting of this endangered species, adding, “this could be the L.A. River!”
Of course, after years of drought, spotting a southern steelhead in a creek at Leo Carrillo State Park is a reason for everyone to cheer. Gone are the days of steelhead runs, when an entire industry sprang up to cater to fishermen who traveled to witness and catch these magnificent fish as they made their way from the ocean to their spawning grounds in our local mountains.
“It was so exciting to find an actual steelhead, as they are rare as hens teeth this year,” said Rosi Dagit, team leader and senior conservation biologist for Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, by email. “Only four anadromous adults have been documented thus far, and one died in my hands in Malibu on Wednesday. A lot of future hopes are with this lovely fish and we wish her many babies to help recover the population!”
“Patagonia, the Ventura-based outdoor clothing and gear company, is working with Hewlett and other groups to raise the funds needed to take out the dam by 2020. It would be the largest dam removal in California history (eclipsing the recent San Clemente project).”
In its new issue, The Flyfish Journal features carping the LA River, putting our water in the august company of tournament trout in Wyoming, springtime in Patagonia and fly-in fishing the Northwest Territories.
Not bad for a piker, as I tease my wife whenever really good things happen.
LA’s own Daniel Lopez penned the piece with able assists from his posse, which included LARFF guest contributor Greg Madrigal, and a nice photograph from FoLAR’s William Preston Bowling.
In the same issue, writer Andrew Steketee in Confluence: Los Angeles Steelhead Theory tells us:
“Historically, Oncorhynchus mykiss were present in Zuma Creek, and fish migrated upstream to spawn in the headwaters before heading downstream as smolts. Dams and diversions have disrupted passage throughout the drainage. Predation from fish, birds, raccoons, river otters, lampreys, pinnipeds and humans. Natural propagation in abeyance. This may be the part where Jesus returns to tell us what to do.”
I guess that’s supposed to be funny. If anyone has a picture of a river otter in Southern California, please let me know.
If you have any shots of goldfish you’ve caught in the river, please send them in. Also, we may be the only river in the country in which hobbyists also take fish home to see what they grow up to be! Come on, you know who you are!
“Giant goldfish are becoming a problem in Minnesota lakes, and wildlife officials are warning fish owners who no longer want to care for their pets not to flush them down the toilet or dispose of them in lakes, ponds or waterways.”
This Los Angeles Times story, with accompanying photos and visuals, puts me in awe of the fish we have in the river. How do they ever return after an event such as this one? Best quote from the story:
“The namesake settlement of Los Angeles became the second city in California after San Jose, with a water ditch — the zanja madre — diverting flow to the city.
The river, its tributaries and artesian wells made Los Angeles County one of the biggest cattle and food producing centers in the nation. Fishermen caught steelhead trout in the pools, and waterwheels ran flour mills in the currents.”
This in-depth piece on different visions and conflicts for renewing the Los Angeles River makes for an engaging read. Check out these quotes from “L.A. Remembers It Has a River” by Willy Blackmore in TakePart, the digital news and lifestyle magazine, and social action platform.
“There’s no keystone species for riparian habitat in Southern California—no iconic, ecologically significant animal whose health and abundance can stand in for that of the larger ecology. But Lewis MacAdams—who cofounded the river’s first dedicated environmental group, Friends of the Los Angeles River, in 1987—has said he’ll know his work is done “when the steelhead trout run returns to the Los Angeles River.” MacAdams and his organization have played a major role in bringing the city’s attention back to its central waterway, and while he has been critical of Gehry’s involvement, MacAdams has been supportive of the Corps of Engineers’ vision for the river.
“Yet the habitat restoration plan for the Glendale Narrows accounts for neither fish nor frog. According to the plan, the restored habitat would help the endangered least Bell’s vireo, a small brownish bird, but the question of steelhead, a member of the salmon family, is couched more in terms of maybe or someday.”
Celeste WalterHabitat for what? Is it going to be sterile like a city park? Sounds like playing Jenga with half the levels of blocks missing from bottom. As a child I remember hiking with an elderly couple , the woman watched while I did my best to catch a tadpole. She told me tadpoles in the stream were evidence of the health of the stream and surrounding area. Is it different now?
A straight flush? That’s the topic environmental writer Louis Sahagun ponders in today’s LA Times, and the hypothesis being tested in this recent citizen science event: Can nonnative species survive in So Cal’s boom-or-bust water cycles?
For those of us who enjoy fishing them, the answer is “sure, hope so!” But as many of you can attest, the bass, also a nonnative, went away for many months following last winter’s storms.
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook looking for fellow finny fanatics (who hasn’t?), you may have seen Kesley Gallagher’s smiling face. My favorite shot was one taken in her wedding dress, fly rod in hand. Now comes an extended profile of the So Cal resident in the monthly California Confluences column in California Fly Fisher magazine. I’d link, but it’s print only.
As Gallagher recounts to Bud Bynack, the column’s author:
“I fly fish all the time, both at home and abroad. I live on a lake and kayak with a fly rod for largemouth bass after work. I fish fish the Los Angeles River for carp, and I love pursuing corbina and halibut in the surf. My friend, Al Quattrocchi, and I joke that we need a new tournament here in L.A. called the ‘Fly Fishing Freeway Challenge,’ where an angler has to land a corbina, carp, and halibut on a fly all in one day.”