Tag: U.S Army Corps of Engineers

Editorial: Army Corps, tear down this wall!

BACK TO THE BAD OLD DAYS when you couldn’t access the river. Notice no one is close to the shore. (Jim Burns)

Today was about as perfect an L.A. fishing day as you could get: temperature in the low 70s; carp for the sighting; long stretches of river to yourself. So, what’s not to like?


The Atwater Village “temporary” barriers are still there after close to a year. Remember the Army Corps installed them last January to protect Atwater Village from the predicted El Nino flooding. Well, the possibility of getting a super soaker came and went, but the sand-filled blockades are still there. I was reminded of President Ronald Reagan’s famous line, delivered at the Berlin Wall in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

I haven’t walked the whole length, but according to a piece that ran in the Eastsider in January, it’s three miles long!

wallAnd because scaling the barriers — filled with sand and 4 feet high — is difficult, access along this very long stretch is once  again contained to the walking path above the river. So, if you want to:

— fly fish

— walk your dog near river’s edge

— enjoy the occasional turtle

— bird watch

— take wildlife photographs while smelling the river’s Tide-scented waters

you won’t be doing it unless you are fit and able enough to hoist yourself up and over the barrier.  Where does that leave the disabled who would like to enjoy our river?

The barriers have been there so long that weeds are actually growing in many of the containers, as if that were their intended use.

I read the Corps has decided the area is at risk if we experience a “100 year flood.” Is that the reason for not dismantling the barriers? For me, it’s a blatant attempt to keep the river away from people, just like you. Thank you, Army Corps., for attempting to protect the area, but the risk is gone and what’s left is classic overreach.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so if anyone is in that area, please take a shot of how high the water gets, and, of course, don’t try to access the lower river reaches.  If the water rises anywhere near these dreadful barriers, I’ll retract this post. Otherwise, it’s time for all of us to echo Reagan’s words — the fight to get access to the river has been too long and hard to let it be snatched away once again by a government agency.

See you on the river, Jim Burns


Please get rid of the barriers!!!
My wife is handicapped and can’t jump over the barriers! There’s no need for them anymore!!!

Two L.A. River rec. zones open for summer splashing

PADDLE UP: The L.A. Conservation Corps guides a group through still waters and overhanging willows. (Jim Burns)
PADDLE UP: The L.A. Conservation Corps guides a group through still waters and overhanging willows. (Jim Burns)
Fly-fishers, grab your egg patterns.
Kayakers, adjust your life vests.
Birders, shine your binocular lenses.

because …

once again water recreation is going live in the Glendale Narrows in Elysian Valley and in a portion of the Sepulveda Basin. Hats off to councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority and the U.S. Army Corps for keeping it afloat (haha) this year.

The dets for May 26 through Sept. 1, sunrise to sunset:

GA-RUMP: So is this a Western Toad or a Western Spadefoot Toad? (Jim Burns)
GA-RUMP: So is this a Western Toad or a Western Spadefoot Toad? (Jim Burns)

— Flyfishing/traditional fishing are both super-fun, and don’t forget to bring your kids along. You will need a fishing license for each rod, but it’s well worth the money. Remember this is the only time of the year that you can legally fish the river. Check out this story I wrote for KCET for details.
Tickets to explore one and a half miles of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area with LA River Expeditions go on sale tomorrow at noon. I donned a life vest a couple of years back and had a blast.
— In Glendale Narrow, rent a kayak at Marsh Park through L.A. River Kayaks. Or paddle through our very own rapids with L.A. River Kayak Safari by booking here.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Public comment period for L.A. River alternatives begins tomorrow

SAY "CHEESE": Wihelmina, age 5, holds the fish, while father Peirce takes the snap and sister, Ursula, age 4, looks on. (Peirce)
SAY “CHEESE”: Wihelmina, age 5, holds the fish, while father Peirce takes the snap and sister, Ursula, age 4, looks on. (Peirce)

Tomorrow is the big day for the long-awaited release of the ARBOR study and its four alternatives to remake the L.A. River. It’s also a chance for you to weigh in, by reviewing the alternatives, then going to the Corps’ website to comment.

I began this blog as an obscure homage to our river and its fish some two and a half years ago, but this summer traffic spiked to just shy of 35,000 hits. Even I’m pretty amazed (in a good way!) at the buzz and comments lariverflyfishing has received. I’d like to think it’s because of my stylish reporting, but, in truth, it’s because a flood of big federal money is coming and people are excited by what the future could hold. As I wrote last month:

“At stake is how much money the federal government is willing to put into implementing an ecosystem

restoration that could possibly remake the Los Angeles River into a vital part of the city. Last week, the

Los Angeles City Council made it officially known that it wanted to see the biggest package possible, that’s

$1 billion (Alternative 20), which would be spent on the river from Glendale Narrows to downtown, an

11-mile area. There are three other “best buy” alternatives that will be spelled soon-to-be-released report,

each with a lesser price tag.”

Interest from many has been very keen as well. We’ve had the L.A. Weekly weigh in on what it says is the conflict between the Los Angeles Army Corps and higher-ups in Washington, D.C.; we’ve had powerful pols wax poetic about the river’s perfumed waters, with both Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Rep. Adam Schiff (D, Burbank) putting some eloquent thoughts down on digital paper.  Even the lifestyle mag Sunset featured a spread in its print version.

So, amid all the excitement, the day finally arrives tomorrow when Angelinos can sound off about the direction they believe the river should go. My hope is that along with the inevitable commercialization, some areas will be left as sanctuaries for wildlife as well as for those who want to be among them. I hope fly fishing — fishing, in general — will remain a viable option; and that the many birds nesting in Glendale Narrows will be given the habitat they need not only to survive, but to thrive. And, let’s get the lead out and do some kayaking. There have been some wonderful stories about kids who dipped a paddle for the first time in our river. I advocate a multi-use, multi-purpose river that is safe during the dry season, with adequate signage, parks and, importantly, law enforcement patrols, one in which a single legal jurisdiction calls the shots.

And, I hope as well that the river reclamation by residents who live close by its banks will continue. Many were amazed at the positive hyper-local response to the Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone. When gangs are forced out, families come in.

As we all move forward into the uncertain future, one thing is sure: change, the river will. Let’s make it the right change.

See you on the river, Jim Burns


Quick Mends: Useful links update Sepulveda Basin habitat destruction

California State Senator Kevin De Leon props up crushed vegetation while touring Sepulveda Basin's South Reserve. (Courtesy Grove Pashley)
California State Senator Kevin De Leon props up crushed vegetation while touring Sepulveda Basin’s South Reserve. (Courtesy Grove Pashley)

Yesterday, a friend sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Los Angeles Reimagines its Waterway,” that contained both a snarky East-Coast-centric tone, as well as surface reporting (Notice that the title says “waterway,” not “river” …) But I was struck by two quotes that I think aptly reveal where we are today:

“By year’s end, the Corps and city engineers expect to complete a joint $10 million study that will offer a handful of options for restoring native habitat, likely creating wetlands along the river and potentially removing or reshaping some of the river’s concrete walls. The study examines an 11-mile stretch of the river on the city’s east side, where some resilient plants have survived in a narrow, muddy strip of so-called soft bottom at the center of the channel.”


“Last month, to the surprise of many San Fernando Valley residents, the Corps cleared more than 40 acres of trees and plants near the river northwest of the study area, in the Sepulveda Basin. While not related to the Arbor study, the action set off an outcry among local environmental groups and has raised concerns about the future of the Arbor study.”

According to the article, “State Sen. Kevin de León, one of several local officials who has demanded an explanation from the Corps, said the Sepulveda project “doesn’t bode well” for the future of efforts to revitalize the Los Angeles River’s natural landscape.”

So true.

I’ve spent literally two years and change fly fishing this area that the article refers to as a “narrow, muddy strip of so-called soft bottom at the center of the channel.” If you visit these pages, you’ll find pictures of the carp I and many others have so enjoyed catching. But now I wonder, how can you trust the Corps not to destroy all fishing in the river once work actually begins? The motto of this blog is “waiting for steelhead, fishing for carp,” but I now have to wonder if everything non-native has to be tossed out, and with warm water temperatures the rule, will there be any fish at all left in the river? Reintroducing steelhead, which were found in the river as late as the 1940s, is all but impossible. There is no way to construct a run to allow steelhead to reach the ocean.

And are trout really plausible given the river’s high water temperatures? Maybe, with a lot of habitat engineering, and lots and lots of cash money.

That leaves carp, which already thrive in the river, have been resident for decades and, for the sports fisherman, are a lot more cost efficient to catch than traveling to Belize to snatch a bone fish.

I think it’s a crazy policy that has every plant, fish and game species returned to the halcyon of days before Los Angeles was the city it is now. Pragmatic room must be made at the table for all types of activity on the river, which includes fishing.

Question: Exactly what will we be fishing for in the Los Angeles River in 2016?

For those of you following the important issues of the Corps clear-cutting 40+ plus acres of the Sepulveda Basin to suit its own desires, see the links below that come courtesy of Sepulveda Basin Wildlife.

Damage can be seen on the trunk of this native Oak at the South Reserve. (Courtesy Glenn Bailey)
Damage can be seen on the trunk of this native Oak at the South Reserve. (Courtesy Glenn Bailey)

Click HERE to read the entire Finding of No Significant Impact for the Vegetation Management plan.
Click HERE to read the letter sent to ACOE by the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areas Steering Committee.
Click HERE to read the ACOE’s response to the SBWASC letter.
Click HERE to see ACOE’s web page about this issue.
Click HERE to read Daily News article about clear cutting of South Reserve.
Click HERE to read L.A. Times article “Army Corps of Engineers clear-cuts lush habitat in Valley”, HERE to read follow-up article.
Click HERE to view YouTube video about the destruction.
Click HERE and HERE to see Encino Patch articles with additional photos.
Click HERE to read letter from San Fernando Valley Audubon Society about clear cut.
Click HERE to read KCET blog by Carren Jao.
Click HERE to read letter from State Senator Fran Pavley.
Click HERE to read letter from State Senator Luis de Leon.
Click HERE to view video entitled “Wildlife Refuge Meets Army Corps or Engineers” by a concerned citizen.
Click HERE to read an editorial by Charles Miller on the KCET blog.
Click HERE to read story in the LA Weekly.
Click HERE to read Congressman Brad Sherman’s letter to Colonel Toy.
Regional Water Board Investigation – click HERE for Encino Patch article.

Click HERE to find out about the history and wildlife of what used to be the South Reserve.

Click HERE to visit the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society’s web site that has recommendations as to who to send comments, and other links.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Contact Brad Sherman about Sepulveda Basin habitat destruction

Here is a call to action to Brad Sherman, as well as independent action from another activist blogger. Please do copy/paste this letter and send it to the newly elected congressman.
See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: Army Corps levels 43 acres of Sepulveda Basin habitat

This fly-fisherman just about set the river on fire! Maybe we should send this snap to "Ghost Hunters."
This fly-fisherman is staking carp, a non-native species of the Los Angeles River. Would all carp be killed in the river once reconstruction begins?

I was shocked to read this story in the Los Angeles Times today that begins: “An area that just a week ago was lush habitat on the Sepulveda Basin’s wild side, home to one of the most diverse bird populations in Southern California, has been reduced to dirt and broken limbs — by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

Read the entire story by Louis Sahagun here.

With the public comment period for the long-awaited ARBOR study coming up this spring, the Corps may have a public relations nightmare on its hands. In this historic moment, the pubic will weigh in on which of four alternative reconstruction plans makes the most sense. That plan will then be sent to Washington for approval and funding. Make no mistake, the river will be changed, no matter which plan moves forward. The Corps and the city of Los Angeles are partners in the redevelopment.

As one highly placed city official emailed me recently (in other words, before this happened), “Remember that the fundamental purpose of the Study is to improve the ecosystem values in the LA River — and that means riparian habitat that is good for wildlife, including fish species.”

Just last week, I walked part of the river with a Corps biologist, who told me that she studied maps from the late 1800s to see which plants were prevalent along the river during that time. Re-establishing those plants along the river will undoubtedly be part of all four alternatives.

Up until this happened, Sepulveda Basin was the beautiful place where environmentalists, river advocates, Los Angeles and the Corps had found common ground.  But with the Audubon Society calling for an investigation into the loss of habitat for 250 species of birds, as well as mammals, reptiles and fish, my guess would be the trust the Corps has been building within the community has been sheared by their bulldozer’s edge. Developing.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

‘Improvement Overlay’ is Councilman Reyes next approach to coaxing money from the feds

Lots of buzz this week about a proposed ordinance to establish the Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay District. That’s a mouthful to say to Washington, “hey, Obama, where’s our money?”

Cash, authorized by Congress, is needed to complete an essential Corps  study that analyzes the effects of ripping out lots of concrete. Currently, the last phase of the study is years behind schedule. Until it’s finished, Reyes’ river project can’t be completed.

Councilperson Ed Reyes chairs the Ad Hoc River Committee (courtesy photo).

He went to Washington last month to press his case.

Last week, both the L.A. Daily News and Curbed L.A. ran reports about the city council’s new-and-improved plan for waterfront development.

As Councilman Ed Reyes, who chair the council’s Ad Hoc River Committee, told the Daily News:

“This is the final step for us at the city to offer a map to developers on what the river can offer. It has taken us eight years to get to this point and we can use this as a way to convince the Obama administration to provide the funds to the Army Corps of Engineers to complete its study.”

The Army Corps has loosened up its river grip since the establishment of the Urban Waters Initiative in early summer, even going so far as to permit a pilot kayaking program, close to the Sepulveda Basin.

But, remember, even though the enforcement arms of the law, the LAPD and Griffith Park Rangers, have lightened up on handing out tickets, it’s still illegal to fly fish or even walk along the river’s bank, once you’re off the path.

And without the environmental impact statement, reshaping the river to echo what it once was ain’t gonna fly.

We’ll see where it goes, as Councilman Reyes’s office told Curbed L.A. that the council did not pass the final ordinance:  “The Council approved a Note and File update report on the RIO. Final ordinance will come back to Council in approximately 3 months.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Reyes presses Obama on critical L.A River study funding

AHOY, MATEY: Councilmembers Tony Cardenas, front, with Ed Reyes, far rear, enjoyed a day on the river. (Jim Burns)

I heard on NPR last week that our own Councilman Ed Reyes traveled to Washington to bend President Obama’s ear about the need to fund a study  critical to the river’s re-imagining. Although it’s an opinion piece, Jim Newton, from the Los Angeles Times, puts the Reyes trip into perspective.

From the piece:

‎”The Corps is supposed to be completing a study of the river that analyzes the effects of ripping out large chunks of the concrete, but that work is years behind schedule. Until it’s finished, Reyes’ river project can’t be completed, and he’s now trying to force that work forward. His latest thought: President Obama, as commander in chief, could order the Corps to accelerate the study.
Will the president issue an order to help a Los Angeles city councilman complete a local riverfront project? Reyes thinks he might.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: Paddle the Los Angeles River

SAILING, SAILING: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (front of canoe) takes a tour of the L.A. River earlier this year. (Courtesy Sepulveda Basin Wildlife.org)

Well, the Army Corps of Engineers listened to all of the responses from kayakers, environmentalists and just plain folks who love the river, and guess what! If you are lucky enough to buy a ticket (cost unknown to me, but I’ll post it when I find out), Saturdays and Sundays, Aug. 13-Sept. 25, you can explore a mile and a half stretch of the water during this pilot program.

Remember, if was just over a year ago that the Environmental Protection Agency declared the entire river a “traditional navigable waterway,” paving the way for recreational usage. Sign up to get a ticket and check out the digital clock countdown. It’s sure a lot better than getting dizzy trying to watch the debt clock.

See you on the river, Jim Burns