Monthly Archives: May 2007

Mind Hearts Rosie


Catch of the day

from Carmelo Gaeta: “This fish was caught 5/23/07 on the L.A. River at a spot I call Splits, downriver behind Taylor Yard. It’s a wonderful section of the River — very peaceful with no freeway noise and an endless gentle breeze. The vegetation is lush. I guess the weight at about 10-12 lbs with a length of 22in. (Yes, I threw it back, like I always do.) I caught one bigger then this a few weeks back — at least 20lbs, but the photos came out poorly. I’ve caught several of this size and bigger down there. It’s my new spot. (The tackle box with the L.A.Record sticker is 6.5 inches long–do the math. It’s not scientific accurate but close enough.)”

From “The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth” by Blake Gumprecht (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 26:

“At least seven species of fish once lived in the river and its tributary streams, not including the many salt-tolerant species found where fesh and salt water mixed near the river’s mouth. Two marine fish, the southern steelhead and the eel-like Pacific lamprey, spawned in the river, and their young spent one or two years in the stream before returning to the sea. They were probably the largest fish to live in the river, both reaching two feet in length. Three smaller freshwater species–Pacific brook lamprey, arroyo chub, and unarmored threespine stickleback–were widely distributed in the river and in the marshes formed by its overflow. The Pacific brook lamprety grew to about eight inches in length. The arroyo chub, a member of the minnow family, and the threespine stickleback rarely grow longer than three inches. Two other species, the Santa Ana sucker and the Santa Ana speckled dace, occurred primarily in the river’s mountainous tributaries but were also found in the main river channel.”

Duck eggs


From Carmelo Gaeta: “I found this nest of duck eggs along the east bank just north of the Tyburn pole. So far nine eggs, when I first came upon it it had six eggs, so the lil lady is producing. Can’t wait to see them hatch.”

From “The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth” by Blake Gumprecht (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 25:

“Wildlife was abundant all along the river’s course. Deer drank from its waters. Antelope lived near the river in what is today Griffith Park. … Coyotes, grey fox and mountain lions also roamed widely. Grizzly bears came dwon from the mountains in search of food, drawn by the steelhead and other fish that spawned in the streams. Hawks and condors hunted all along the river, while myriad other bird species including cuckoos, owls, vireos, and woodpeckers inhabited the willow groves that flourished along its course. Muskrats, prized for their fur, fed on the tules and cattails that grew in the marshes and sloughs. Swans, ducks, and geese swam nearby. Turtles inhabited the small ponds near the river’s beginning in Encino, and the native grasses were home to gophers, badgers, shrews and moles. Sea gulls flew inland in search of food, mingling with doves, pigeons, and quail on the floor of the San Fernando Valley. Later, as dryland farms replaced the grasslands, jack rabbits became so abundant that farmers held periodic drives in what were probably futile attempts to rid their lands of the ravenous hares.

“Birds, which remain surprisingly abundant in places along the river today, were no doubt even more numerous in historic times. …(T)he river and its overflow lands were home to numerous species that are no longer present or are now rare. Nighthawks, cactus wren, and roadrunners inhabited the San Fernando Valley. Golden eagles lived in hills overlooking the river across from Burbank. Yellow-billed cuckoos, Bell’s vireo, long-eared owls, and California quail nested in the floodplain forest that spread away from the river on the coastal plain, while burrowing owls, green-backed herons, and Savannah sparrows lived in [the marshes].”

New doc on revitalizing the river.

Click here to view film.


“Following in the footsteps of the 1996 LA County master plan and revitalization efforts by not-for profit groups like FoLAR and Northeast Trees, the City of Los Angeles is moving ahead to develop a comprehensive master plan to revitalize a portion of the Los Angeles River. The revitaliza­tion effort will focus on the thirty-two miles of the Los Angeles River corridor that are within the City of Los Angeles. The revitalization plan will propose a 20-year blueprint for the development and management of the river. The stated project goals are to establish land-use and develop­ment guidelines, to improve the ecology of the river, to provide access to the river, to provide recreation space adjacent to the river, to enhance flood control, and to foster community awareness about the river.

“There are many big questions associated with revitalizing the river. What should be done in the channel? How to make it safe? How to balance environmental needs and urban development? How can the city expand the parkland? Who’s going to pay for it? What can be done to prevent residential displacement?

“This 27-minute documentary film about the LA River weaves together citizens’ voices, river imagery, historical documents, and visuals from the city’s proposed Master Plan. Our goal is to explain how current and past efforts have shaped the debate about what the river and its adjacent areas should look like. The film is also meant to motivate people, who may not currently be engaged, to participate in these discussions.

“The film was funded through a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.”

William Deverell Professor of History at the University of Southern California
Robert García Executive Director of The City Project
Mia Lehrer Principal of Mia Lehrer + Associates
Lewis MacAdams Poet, and Chair of the Board of Directors and cofounder of FoLAR
Raul Macías Founder of the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association
Supervisor Gloria Molina Los Angeles County Supervisor of the First District
Councilmember Ed P. Reyes First Council District
Daniel A. Rosenfeld Principal of Urban Partners
Deborah Weintraub Deputy City Engineer City of the Los Angeles
Department of Public Works at the Bureau of Engineering
Scott Wilson President North East Trees
Melanie Winter Director the River Project

Filmed & Directed by: Sarah Lorenzen & David Hartwell
Written by: Sarah Lorenzen

What the L.A. River is.

From “The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth” by Blake Gumprecht (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 127-9:

“Although 10 to 15 percent of the Los Angeles city water supply is still pumped from beneath the San Fernando Valley, nearly all of the water that now flows in the river is treated sewage, authorized industrial discharges and street runoff. Very little water from the source that originally formed the river ever reaches its channel, except during the rainy season. Sewage treatment plants alone provide nearly half of the dry season flow. The greatest single supplier is the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, which began operating in 1984 and now provides about a third of the river’s flow. Consequently, the true ‘source’ of the transformed Los Angeles River is not some mountain stream in the Santa Susana or San Gabriel Mountains. Rather, it is the huge concrete treatment tanks that clean the city’s wastewater and discharge it into an outflow channel that empties into the river just upstream from Sepulveda Dam. Smaller amounts of treated wastewater are discharged from a city of Burbank reclamation plant and a combined Los Angeles-Glendale treatment facility located near the outlet of Verdugo Wash. Another 30 percent of the river’s flow, even in summer, comes from the hundreds of storm drains that empty along its banks. Ironically, less than 5 percent of the dry season flow of the river comes from the ground water basin that was its historic source…

“Even so, the Los Angeles River is now a very different river than it was two decades ago because of the large volumes of treated wastewater discharged into its concrete channel. …The added water has boosted the growth of vegetation in three soft-bottom sections of the river and, though the product of urban sewage, it has actually improved water quality by diluting the street runoff and contaminated ground water. This has led to unexpected changes. The cleaner, faster-moving stream has attracted increasing numbers of gnats in the Glendale Narrows, aggravating golfers in Griffith Park and even baseball players at Dodger Stadium. The growing insect populations have also led to a rise in the number of birds living near the river, since they feed off such insects. It has even been suggested that the cleaner, faster-moving water has reduced frog populations across from Elysian Park–an area long known as ‘Frogtown’–because the frogs prefer dirtier, more stagnant water…

“Recent developments have, in effect, created an artificial waterway that has little in common with the intermittent stream that wandered back and forth across the landscape for thousands of years. Although the degradation of the urban rivers is an old and familiar story, the destruction of the Los Angeles River is in many ways unique in North America because of the very different native character of the stream and the ways in which Euro-American settlers, their ideas about rivers shaped by waterways that had deep channels and carried abundant water year-round, reacted to it. Early residents viewed the river as a resource and little else. They took from it all they needed to survive until its channel was drained dry. And then they took some more. Flood control projects are generally blamed for turning the river into an eyesore, but in truth it was the city’s increasing reliance on the river for its water supply that first transformed it from a thing of beauty into an object of ridicule. Water projects so changed the river that, by the time flood control became a necessity, few cared whether it was covered with cement. Concrete channels merely became the coffin for a river that had already been sapped of nearly all its life.”

Catfish in the L.A. River…


George Wolfe (the Lone Kayaker of River lore) just hipped me to this 7 March 02007 entry by Denise Hamilton in her “Native Intelligence” LAObserved blog:

“George Wolfe…spotted several exotic 6-8-inch fish in the high-walled area a few miles south of the Sepulveda Basin and has concluded that they’re South American catfish….

“A fisherman friend of Wolfe’s who analyzed his photos believes the fish is a plecostomus catfish ‘that comes in many sizes, including a species that grows big enough to feed a whole village. The South American rivers of this fish’s native habitat can be quite murky, warm and low-oxygen, so that’s why it can survive in the L.A. County Flood control channel,’ writes G. Wing.”

L.A. River revitalization blueprint inches forward

Plan for L.A. River OKd
The City Council approves a costly effort to remake the waterway. Much work remains.

By Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2007 Los Angeles Times

Embracing an ambitious and expensive vision, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a long-awaited blueprint for revitalizing the much-maligned Los Angeles River.

The plan — which itself cost $3 million — calls for spending as much as $2 billion over the next half a century on more than 200 projects along the 31 miles of riverbed within city limits.

It took five years to frame the details, but the roots of the proposed river restoration go back to a fledgling group of environmentalists who in the late 1980s began insisting that the river was more than just a concrete-lined flood-control channel.

“This is a great step,” said Lewis MacAdams, founder of the activist group Friends of the Los Angeles River. “One of our first slogans was when the steelhead trout returns to the Los Angeles River, then our work is done, and to see an acknowledgment of steelhead in the plan — well, I like that.”

Echoing that thought was an ebullient Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents parts of northeast Los Angeles and who heads the council’s river committee.

“This is now a real mandate that declares the river is a real river, and we’re going to give it life and support the way it supported us when Los Angeles was first started,” Reyes said.

Among the proposed projects are dozens of parks, pedestrian walkways and bridges. The plan also calls for some river-adjacent areas to be rezoned to allow for more housing near the stream.

At its most extreme and perhaps far-fetched, the plan also proposes knocking down one of the concrete walls that contain the river to expand the channel and make it look more natural. The Army Corps of Engineers is studying those issues.

“It’s incredibly visionary, and I think they’ve set the bar high,” said Nancy Steele, executive director of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council. “The key is going to be implementation.”

Steele noted that the city and region have a rich history of putting together plans for rivers and then never following through. She noted that the river plan doesn’t include upstream tributaries.

Hitting on that point, Councilman Richard Alarcon voted for the plan, but threatened to withhold support unless studies were conducted to include parks in his northeast San Fernando Valley district. “In the Valley” the river “goes through all the rich communities,” Alarcon said.

The council also committed to begin creating a three-tiered management structure to oversee implementation of the river plan.

A joint-powers authority between the city and county would manage projects within the river channel, a nonprofit appointed by elected officials would manage and construct parks along the banks, and a philanthropic organization would help raise private funds.

Other thorny issues remain, among them finding money for projects — state and federal help will be required — and improving water quality.

The city is in the early stages of a federally ordered cleanup of several pollutants in the waterway, including trash and bacteria.

Those details were touched on during Wednesday’s hourlong council discussion, but much of the talk also was of members’ fanciful ambitions for the river.

Council President Eric Garcetti — who has also been a chief proponent of the river — said he could imagine the day that rubber dams are installed in the river to create lakes large enough to hold rowing events downtown in a future Summer Olympics.

He too said the plan would continue to evolve. “The doing has already begun,” Garcetti said, “and the thinking continues.”

John Humble’s River photography/”sociological archaeology” on now at the Getty



Headwaters, the Los Angeles River, Confluence of Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek, Canoga Park (2001)

“In the late 1990s Humble began documenting the Los Angeles River, charting its 51-mile course from the headlands in Canoga Park to its mouth in Long Beach. Humble seized on the opportunity to journey through what he refers to as the ‘sociological archaeology’ of Los Angeles. Bisecting the city, the river offers a cross section of the demographics of Los Angeles: from homeless people who seek refuge in the storm drains of downtown to working-class immigrants and middle-class suburbanites who live along the banks of this largely concrete channel.”


The Los Angeles River from Main Street, Los Angeles (2001)

“The photograph above succeeds in bringing together several ironic elements: the No Stopping invective, the barricade of barbed wire, and the perfunctory sign confirming that this is the Los Angeles River.

“During the 19th century Los Angeles was among the most productive agricultural counties in the United States because of the abundance of water the river provided. Humble is acutely aware that while the river is responsible for the city’s existence, its presence today is largely ignored.”

The Los Angeles River, Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area (2001)

“This photograph was made at the Balboa Boulevard Bridge in Encino. The view looks from the bridge out to an adjoining recreation area, a bucolic scene portrayed in autumnal colors. Created at sunset, the light bathes the landscape with warm, golden tones.”

Thanks Piotr Orlov!