What are the obstacles against catching/releasing a native Rainbow in our local waters? Let’s list the Big Three:
Ongoing drought since 2001, which tree rings show is the driest 21-year period since at least 800 A.D. when Vikings sailed and Mayans built temples. (San Jose Mercury News)
Frequent forest fires, including 2020’s Bobcat Fire, which devastated the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Local fly-fishing club members report there are no fish in a stream beloved by us all. I would add the footnote, “for now.”
Beginning in the 1930s, channelization to prevent flooding, dams and development block rainbows from returning to the Pacific Ocean and, conversely, steelhead from returning from the ocean to the San Gabriel Mountains to spawn.
Yet today, there he was, in a flow of cool, clear, crisp water. Small and full of fight, he glimmered like a slim beacon of hope.
In a world of seemingly unrelenting bad news — disease, gun violence, war and now economically crippling inflation — this is why I continue to trek in our local mountains and continue to cast a line into the seemingly impossible. In our waters, there are still possibilities, there is still hope. Remind yourself next time you are on the water that the mere act of continuing what for many of us is a retreating normal, miraculous life remains.
Less than an hour’s drive from here, up in those dry and dusty San Gabriel Mountains, are three rare and precious wild trout streams, the West, North and East forks of the San Gabriel River.
Under arbors of alder, sycamore and oak, they run clear and cold all year long, despite drought, and harbor wild rainbow trout. Some of the rainbows are direct descendants of steelhead trout, which went to and from the sea for eons before the dams were built.
The streams are also home to some threatened and endangered creatures, including the Santa Ana speckled dace, that exists only in the Los Angeles basin. These flows are always under pressure, and not just from the lack of water. They frequently suffer from overuse by crowds of visitors, some of whom trash them and others who damage them with illegal gold mining and with what the forest service calls “recreational dam building.”
The forest service has long been hard pressed to protect them: not enough money, and not enough staff.
The many people who know and love these streams were naturally excited when President Obama designated the National Monument in the fall of 2014, anticipating that plans and resources would be developed to better protect these waters. And so the fishers, the hikers and the mountain bikers, together with professional fishery experts, weighed in during the requisite public comment period to tell the forest service what they thought should be done for these streams in the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Plan.
At the end of that process, the forest service produced a summary of the comments and an outline of the issues and concerns they determined should be the focus of the plan. Sadly, the outline for their management plan does not include any focus on these streams.
Consequently, in accordance with the forest service’s planning policies, all of the stream-specific comments and recommendations that were submitted by the public were ignored. They will not have an influence on the management plan for the national monument.
If this concerns you, let the forest service know:
Contact Justin Seastrand, Environmental Coordinator, Angeles National Forest, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Superintendent Jeffrey Vail, at JVail@fs.fed.us.
Don’t have to wait for the next public comment period later this winter or spring, when part of the environmental assessment will be published. It may be too late by then.
John Tobin is the conservation chair for the Pasadena Casting Club.
Yesterday afternoon I learned that the state Fish and Game Department is considering regulations that would reopen streams to suction dredge mining all across California including on the East Fork of the San Gabriel, pictured below back when it was open previously. The draft regulations are open for public comment until 5 p.m., Monday. I have attached a fact sheet from Steve Evans of Friends of the River on the situation. Please distribute this information and the urgent call to make comments far and wide:
The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) recently issued revised suction
dredge mining regulations and is seeking public comment on them by 5 p.m. March
5. Unfortunately, the revised regulations will cause serious water quality
problems and harm fish and wildlife on many of our rivers and streams, including
the East Fork San Gabriel River.
The revised regulations propose to reopen the East Fork below its confluence with
Cattle Canyon to suction dredge mining-induced noise, water pollution, habitat
degradation, and conflicts with other recreational visitors. Please send an email
TODAY to the CDFG urging the agency to withdraw the revised regulations and
to specifically close the East Fork to suction dredge mining. In addition, the CDFG
should start over with new regulations that fully protect water quality, threatened
and endangered species and their habitat, and other recreational activities.
Suction dredging – a mining practice that requires a gasoline-powered motor to run
an underwater vacuum to suck up large amounts of gravel and sediment from the
river bed to collect gold – harms water quality, as well as fish and wildlife and the
habitat these wild creatures depend on.
Unfortunately, revised regulations recently issued by the California Department
of Fish and Game (CDFG) will allow this destructive practice to restart in the East
Fork San Gabriel River and other waterways throughout California that are already
impaired by mercury pollution or sediment, provide sensitive habitat for threatened
and endangered fish and wildlife, and offer important non-motorized outdoor
For years, suction dredge miners were literally allowed to take over the East Fork
downstream of Cattle Canyon for the pursuit of gold. This led to conflicts with other
recreational visitors, disturbed river habitat and water quality, and possibly harmed
the Santa Ana sucker, an endangered native fish found primarily in the San Gabriel
River in the Angeles National Forest. A statewide moratorium on suction dredge
mining was imposed by the California Legislature in 2009. But the new revised
regulations threaten to return motorized suction dredge mining to the East Fork
and other waterways throughout the state.
The newly revised regulations require CDFG to issue mining permits where mining
would otherwise be illegal, including the East Fork. A 1928 federal law withdrew
the public lands along the East Fork from mining to protect its watershed and water
quality. Mining on the East Fork is also inconsistent with Wild & Scenic protection
of the river, proposed to protect its endangered fish habitat, water quality, and
outstanding recreation values.
Less than three weeks ago, CDFG issued new revised regulations for public comment
with a deadline of 5PM, March 5, 2012. In addition to the unusually short comment
period, it will be difficult for the public to comment in any meaningful way on the
revised regulations because the revised EIR that justifies the new regulations will
not be available for public review until after the March 5 deadline.
The revised mining regulations will harm rivers and streams throughout California,
from the Klamath River in the north to the East Fork San Gabriel River in the south.
Please help us convince CDFG that the East Fork San Gabriel River and other
ecologically sensitive and water quality impaired rivers and streams in California
should simply be off-limits to the destructive affects of suction dredge mining. Send
an email TODAY to CDFG urging the agency to prohibit suction dredge mining on
all forks of the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest, and withdraw the
revised regulations and start over with a regulatory program that fully protects
water quality and threatened and endangered species and their river habitat, and
Native American cultural values.
Remember, the deadline for comments on the revised regulations is 5 p.m. on
Monday, March 5.
To view a copy of the revised regulations, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge/. For
more information, contact Steve Evans at Friends of the River, phone: (916) 442-
3155 x221, email: email@example.com.
SAMPLE EMAIL OR COMMENT LETTER
Suction Dredge Program
California Department of Fish and Game Northern Region
601 Locust Street
Redding, CA 96001
Re: Suction Dredge Program Revisions to Proposed Amendments
Dear Department of Fish and Game:
I am concerned that the revised regulations allow destructive and harmful suction
dredge mining in the East Fork San Gabriel River. This river supports endangered
native fish and other recreational uses that are often incompatible with suction
dredge mining. It also harms water quality in a river that contributes significantly to
the local water supply. In addition, a 1928 federal prohibits mining on this river to
protect its water quality and watershed values.
Water quality and fish and wildlife in the East Fork and other rivers and streams in
California must be protected from the adverse impacts of suction dredge mining.
The revised regulations simply do not provide sufficient protection for these
sensitive resources. I urge the CDFG to withdraw the revised regulations and
propose new ones that prohibit suction dredge mining on the San Gabriel River in
the Angeles National Forest and that fully mitigate all significant impacts, cover the
state’s costs to administer and enforce the program, and meet all other laws and
Recreational and commercial mining is not a legitimate activity in California if
it is done at the expense of the state’s fish, wildlife, water quality, human health,
and state-protected beneficial uses of the San Gabriel River and other rivers and