Monthly Archives: May 2008

Glendale Narrows chainsaw clearcutting update

As promised by L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti’s deputy Mitch O’Farrell, the clearcutting by chainsaw has indeed continued…

Large foot-wide tree limbs have been severed…

Meanwhile, as predicted, the bamboo-like arundo is already growing back strong in the areas where it was chainsawed last week.

You cannot remove arundo from an area without removing the underlying root mass, which requires herbicides… and that’s in the best case scenario, where you have a limited infestation. We do not have a limited infestation of arundo in the Narrows — it’s massive. To get rid of the root mass would likely require removing the islands altogether.

To summarize: if the goal is to curtail the infestation, a half-measure like clear-cutting stalks

a) is doomed to fail
b) causes inadvertent damage and disruption to the rest of the environment and its inhabitants
c) may actually make the arundo distribution in the environment wider, as roots, plant detritus and so on enter the air and water and find new places in the River to grow

This is a fatally flawed plan. Apparently the chainsawing work crews are part of a “Clean and Green” program the City is doing. Whoever organized and approved this plan should know better. They should also cease this counter-productive work immediately.

Update on bird die-off in Glendale Narrows

Visited the River late yesterday afternoon and ran into Tony Taylor, the Duck Man. Weather has cooled and he said he hasn’t seen any new duck carcasses.

Saw some baby geese with mother who are doing well. Beautiful!

Tony says it looks like it was mostly the Muscovys that died. We’ll see what happens. The water is still pretty putrid (low oxygen) from the excess early-season algae that happened this year, and as long as that’s the case, this could flare up again. (“The Botulinum bacteria is harmless unless exposed to low oxygen conditions, which allows it to grow into a vegetative state that contains a toxin capable of paralyzing the muscles and respiratory systems of fish, birds and humans.” ([source])

There’s some speculation going round as to why the algae bloom came so early and heavy this year. More on that later.

River birds hit by avian botulism in Glendale Narrows, no government response yet

No pictures, but yesterday I witnessed Tony (the Duck Man) moving a large duck corpse into the open River water, trying to get it to sink. I asked him what was happening. He told me that there’s been a massive die-off of muscovy ducks, mallards, geese and drakes in the last week in the Atwater area of the Glendale Narrows, between the Sunnynook footbridge and the Los Feliz bridge.

Tony said the muscovy population has dropped over a few days from around 40 to around a dozen. The drakes are almost gone. There are only 7-8 geese left. The mallard hens are mostly gone, and we’re not seeing any baby ducks, which is extremely unusual. He said this happened once before, in 2001 or 2002. What’s happening now, he says, is avian botulism. Maggots eat the duck corpses, and then the surviving ducks eat the maggots, catch the virus and die.

The plague can be stopped if the corpses can be disposed of in time — that is, removed from the River and burned or buried, or sunk in the water.

Tony says his phone calls and letters to local government authorities and agency officials pleading for monitoring of the situation and prompt corpse disposal have gone unanswered. So, he’s doing what he can, himself. But he can’t be down there all the time, and the situation is made worse by the high heat…

Mitch O’Farrell in Garcetti office admits to ordering River island clearcutting, refuses to meet with interested members of the public.

According to TIM WARNER at

“FYI [CD13 deputy Mitch O’Farrell] and a botanist from the Army Corps. of Engineers walked the islands a couple weeks ago and the botanist marked the Arundo and some other vegetation for removal so that when they come back shortly to remove the Arundo root systems they can minimize the intrusion. The money is coming from a grant. [Mitch O’Farrell] also said they looked for birds nests and other signs of wildlife at that time to make sure they would not disturb anything…

In a later post late Thursday night, TIM WARNER reported: “Mitch says the project should be over within two weeks and that he will not have time to have a meeting before then. Sorry I wish I had better news than that. He also said that crews have started cleaning up the debris and will continue to do so over the next couple days and that it will hopefully be gone before the FOLAR clean up [“La Gran Limpieza,” Friends of the L.A. River’s annual volunteer clean-up of the River, scheduled for Saturday, May 17].

“I asked if in the future the public can have more involvement and prior knowledge of such work or proposed work and he said he would be happy to talk to and include members of the public in the process. He did mention there is the possibility of some more projects in the near future for any of you interested in finding out more. His email is:

In a later post this morning, TIM WARNER wrote, “I walked down there this morning and the amount cleared out is surprising. I also saw that a lot of the debris is still there. I have been getting email responses so I will follow up and see what other info. I can get.”

This whole series of events is just nuts and reflects poorly on LA City Council District 13 councilman Eric Garcetti.

Eric Garcetti is a very smart guy, who I’ve voted for, who I’ve met, and who who I admire and respect — but he’s also been very busy in the last six months, what with holding the president’s chair at City Council and campaigning all over the place for Obama.

Somehow I doubt that Eric knows about what his deputy [Mitch O’Farrell] is up to here. I can’t believe Eric would approve of the high-handed way in which river users, naturalists and advocacy organizations are being treated by his office–even Friends of the L.A. River can’t get through to these people.

Just doesn’t make sense.

The River is a BIGGER than CD13. It is not even completely in CD13’s jurisdiction, it also falls under other city council districts, county supervisorial districts, and so on, up to and including the federal level (Army Corps of Engineers), etc.

No single office or government agency has power in the River; and to the degree that one entity has any power, it certainly does not include the right to unilaterally order the chainsaw clearcutting/destruction of habitat by untrained workers.

CD13 should not be going into the River and doing stuff on its own, or even in tandem with a single botanist from ACE. They don’t have the right to do so. This is not their River to do with as they please.

This is a power-grab. It needs to be stopped.

Garcetti office-contracted workers are chainsawing cottonwood trees and other plants on River islands as part of misguided clearcutting operation

I’m hearing that Mitch O’Farrell (him again) at L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office has contracted with “Aztec Fire Fuel Department” for two trucks’ worth of supposedly “at risk” individuals to cut out the bamboo-like arundo donax plant growth on the islands in the Glendale Narrows area of the River bordering Atwater Village.

However, the crews are not just cutting the arundo, but they’re also chainsawing everything else, including cottonwood trees, which are being cut down or having limbs sawed off. The arundo is not a hazard, and will grow back quickly anyway. There is no good reason to cut it, especially in a manner that removes other plants, bushes and trees while leaving the arundo root mass intact.

Wikipedia: “Minor infestations can be removed manually, as long as the entire root mass and all rhizome parts are removed. Its dense growth and thick root masses make manual or mechanical removal of above-ground mass of large clonal monocultures a slow, inefficient, and difficult process. Rhizome pieces buried under 1-3 m of soil may resprout, and the disturbance caused by physical removal to the soil and surrounding communities may be severe.”

Using chainsaws and axes to clearcut a major infestation of arundo is idiocy.

Making things even stupider, these guys are leaving the detritus (limbs and branches) on the concrete bank, or in the land between the freeway and the River. At least one of these large piles next to the freeway was set on fire recently—you can see the blackened earth from the bikepath.

So, in essence, the City is trucking people to the River, where they are cutting down trees and other plant growth, in order to create fire hazards. Notice how every step ensures that there will be more carbon in the atmosphere—you gotta admire the reverse evil genius at work here.

Here’s some video and pictures of today’s damage. I didn’t get any footage of the two dozen or so workers hooting and whistling at the females (including schoolgirls) passing through the area on the bikepath. There’s always tomorrow, I guess.