Tag: Southern California Steelhead

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 –

Cause Celebre: How a trout rescue on the q.t. ignited a water war in Pasadena

An incredible story of disappearing water, relocated trout and the thirsty needs of Pasadena.
Once known for its fly-fishing close to home, the Arroyo Seco above Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has become an unwilling poster child for all the calamities trout face: devastating fires, ruinous mudslides, parching droughts and , of course, human pressure. (Jim Burns)

An amazing story from the incomparable Los Angeles Times environmental writer Louis Sahagun: “In an era of increasing drought and nearly back-to-back wildfires, state conservationists have been working overtime in the San Gabriel Mountains to rescue frogs, fish and other species facing potential oblivion by rounding up populations of threatened animals and transporting them to safer areas.

While most of these efforts have occurred in obscurity, one recent mission to save hundreds of doomed rainbow trout has touched off a heated battle between humans and fish over the clear waters of Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco. The controversy has also served to highlight the challenges wildlife biologists now face as they search for havens amid Southern California’s patchwork of urban development, wildfire scars and seasonal mudslides.”

The story of steelhead, one sign at a time

Earth Quotes: Roderick Haig-Brown’s ‘A River Never Sleeps’

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Prolific fishing author Roderick Haig-Brown was a conservation pioneer, spending much of his life in Campbell River, B.C. (Courtesy Museum at Campbell River)

Why should we all speak up to restore our river’s natural habitat in the face of redevelopment plans that put everything but the endangered southern steelhead  first?

Perhaps, because of the recent shrinkage of two treasured national monuments, despite an outcry by millions of concerned outdoorsmen (and women). For an eye-opening read, check out What Would Theodore Roosevelt Do?IMG_1028

Perhaps, because of goverment-mandated cutting of the two most important words of this century — “climate change” — from documents produced by the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency and other federal authorities.

Perhaps, because of the devastating climate-fueled conflagration we all recently witnessed here in our own city, to our north, to our south and to thousands of acres all over California.

Or, perhaps, because it is simply the right thing to do.

When does the misuse of what we’ve been freely given end? A former wild river now encased in concrete is as good a place as any to take a stand. Today, when I wade the soft-bottomed sections that remain, fly rod in hand, birds overhead, I feel that fragile sense of hope return. Hope begins as a small thing, like a faint cry you can’t quite make out. But, given time, and especially nurtured by like minds and hearts, it grows and spreads. Hope becomes a powerful force.

In these depressing times, we all need sources of inspiration to nurture that hope.

Consider the 1946 masterpiece, “A River Never Sleeps.” Its author Roderick Haig-Brown lays out his best-known book’s chapters by months. January is reserved for steelhead.

The English Haig-Brown included in this chapter drawn from his experiences in a logging camp in Mount Vernon, Washington, his praise for American openness to immigrants because we are a nation of immigrants:

“When I had been in camp only a week or two, a little old Irishman whom we called Frank Skagway showed me the strength and passion with which America grips her immigrants. In the bunkhouse one evening a few of us were talking of Europe and America and the differences of the life of the two continents.

Probably I said my say for Old England — I don’t remember now — but being only two or three months away from her, I must have. Frank had been listening without offering a word, but suddenly he looked over at me, his lined and long-jawed Irish face serious as I had never seen it.

‘Lad,’ he asked, ‘do you know what country this is?’

‘No,’ I said doubtfully.

‘It’s the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Say ‘no’ to damming the LA River for a water wheel

alden-la-water-wheel-photo
Already approved by the LA City Council in 2014, the water wheel depends on water collected behind an inflatable dam. Did anyone ask the endangered steelhead about this project? (Credit Alden)

In an age when the dams are finally coming down, the city of Los Angeles is erecting a new one, if approved by year’s end. Advocates tout this barrier as both temporary and inflatable, instead of fixed and concrete, and its purpose twofold: to create a basin for water to fuel the Annenberg Foundation’s water wheel; and to slow the flow of treated water to the ocean.

I wonder if any have asked those who advocate for the return of steelhead to the Los Angeles River what they thought?

And I wonder, as retired FoLAR luminary Lewis MacAdams was fond of saying, did anyone ask the steelhead? If they are able to ride a winter storm surge from the beach upstream if they’d like to get stuck behind an inflatable, unnecessary dam?

Dams are coming down all over the country. In fact, 72 dams fell last year, according to American Rivers. And when they are blasted back into the dust from which they came, fish return. That list includes Benbow Dam, South Fork Eel River and Old Carmel River Dam, Carmel River, both in California.

Now we read that inflatable dams are a good idea for the LA River because the county has already used them successfully on the San Gabriel River to recharge groundwater. To me, the logic points backward, not forward.

If we want to end up with a restored river instead of a carnival, one that is renewed with native plants, fish and wildlife, one in which children and their parents can enjoy a taste of the actual river environs, instead of concrete, graffiti and drug deals, this leads exactly in the wrong direction.

Ask a San Antonioan how may fish he’s caught in the remade RiverWalk in downtown San Antonio and he will probably tell you how great the jazz clubs along with river are, and how many dining options there are now. And how much real estate value has increased.  As one YouTuber put it:

“There’s no signs anywhere saying you can’t fish there, but it’s frowned upon and not many people have tried. I didn’t stick around too long, I was getting dirty looks from the employees of a nearby bar, and I think they called the cops.”

Maybe that’s fine for San Antonio, but I don’t think it’s OK for Los Angeles. After all, our own recreation zones have only been open for legal seasonal  fishing for four years.

CalTrout recently released a cry for help because Southern Steelhead, currently endangered, will be extinct, along with many other native fish, within a young person’s lifetime. The advocacy group believes 45 percent of them will be extinct – not endangered, extinct – within 50 years.

So, please take a moment to write Mayor Eric Garcetti and tell him you’d rather give steelhead a chance to return to the San Gabriel Mountains than have an inflatable dam further blocking the way. That you’d rather give our youth a taste of the outdoors in our own communities. That you actually do care about the environment over development. Here is his email:

mayor.garcetti@lacity.org

After all, when the Army Corps eventually begins to tear out the concrete near Atwater Village, the true nature of the river can be coaxed back into the 21st Century. As the water temperatures decrease, the chances of introducing native fish increase.

Using artificial means to increase water levels for a water wheel is wrong headed. In fact, like a hamster wheel, it is circling in exactly the wrong direction.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Arroyo Seco Foundation receives $50,000 for trout study

The first book published by Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach details the struggles of the endangered Southern California Steelhead. (Courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific)

The Arroyo Seco Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to determine the best stream conditions for introducing trout, according to the Pasadena Star-News. 

Tim Brick, the foundation’s managing director, adds:

“We’re still look for trout, but the stream is below 1 cubic feet per second again. We need to identify the pools and resting spots where the trout are hiding. Probably Bear Canyon is the most likely spot. Anyone care to go on a trout scout adventure?”

His email is tim@arroyoseco.org.

Finally, to get a taste of what fishing used to be like here, I’m rerunning my 2014 review of historian Tom Tomlinson’s excellent book, ““Against the Currents: The Unlikely Story of the Southern California Steelhead” below.

***

If you think you’ve finished your summer reading list, stop! Consider one more book, please.

“Against the Current, The Unlikely Story of the Southern California Steelhead” could not, in truth, be a more unlikely tale. Author Tom Tomlinson takes the reader on an environmental roller coaster ride that matches our region’s boom-or-bust water supply, and throws in plenty of human Greek drama.

Beautiful color on this trout, which was released, unharmed, back to the water. (Jim Burns)

What just over a 100 years ago was a region so pristine that Easterners came here to mend their health, through hunting, fishing and soaking up the sunshine, quickly turned into what we have today. As someone who has lived here for over 30 years with no plans of leaving, I’m not complaining, but when you read this book and realize what it once was — especially if you enjoy fly fishing the San Gabes — well, get our your handkerchief.

Sob.

One fact to prime the tears: In the early 1900s, the then-equivalent of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife set the limit of fish taken at … 100. If you’ve ever put boots to dirt and fly to water in our mountains, this should give you a chill. Guests at the local fishing camps regularly hauled in lots of rainbows, and, yes, steelhead. And they hauled, and they hauled and they hauled. Think buffalo in the plains states.

How we got from those abundant fishy beginnings to where we are today is a story of good intentions gone to greed, it’s about that simple.

As for the steelhead once again taking center stage as we enter the Great Los Angeles River Rebuilding, well, this magnificent creature needs our help to get off the endangered species list.

When Congress approves the billion bucks for a river makeover early next year (Update: As of this writing three years later, the federal money hasn’t arrived), I hope every politician, every engineer and every investor gets a copy of this book. They should look up the section on one Henry O’Melveny, lawyer, fishing advocate, Creel Club founder, ice plant owner and, sadly, leader of the pack that done the natural inhabitants of our erratic rivers and streams in. Indeed, he is a figure as defining of Greek tragedy as Oedipus or Agamemnon.

Fast forward to today, and a mayor who is bringing in major bucks from Washington for the river as well as public transportation. I hope that Mayor Eric Garcetti reads this slim volume. It is the most compelling work to date on why the natural habitat can’t take a backseat to our own urban comfort zone. That story already happened.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

SWC asks for emails in support of Rindge Dam removal

Rindge
(Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

NEEDED BY MARCH 27 – Monday
 
Dear Fly Fishers and fellow conservationists:
Many of you have heard me speak about the Rindge Dam removal. Well now is the time I need you to help me!
Please take a few moments to email a message to the US Army Corp of Engineers expressing support for the Rindge Dam removal project on Malibu Creek. The Environmental Impact Statement and Feasibility Study are outMalibu LPP Placemat_v5 28FEB17 for public comment and now is the time to go on record. Specifically address support for the Locally Preferred Plan (LPP Alt2B2), described in the attachment and link, which removes the entire concrete dam structure and barges the sand and other materials to areas that will benefit it the most. The LPP Alt 2B2 is favored by the local resource agencies and I am choosing to support it. I hope you join me.
Please send a quick email supporting LPP Alt2B2 to
this is the person to address the letter to:
Eduardo T. Demesa 
Chief, Planning Division 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District 

ATTN: Mr. Jesse Ray (CESPL-PDR-L) 

915 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 930 

Los Angeles, California 90017
Your clubs can send in a message, your members can send in a message, all expressing the desire to see the dam removed and miles of habitat opened up for spawning and early growth. This anadromous fish is an endangered species that only 60-70 years ago flourished in our local waters. We can help them recover by taking the time to express your concern for the future of this wonderful fish and support for LPP Alt 2B2.
here is the link to more information:
Please contact me if you have any questions or need assistance to get this done. I’m here to help.
Debbie Sharpton
SWC-IFFF
Conservation VP
debbie.sharpton@gmail.com