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Yes, a river does run through it

by Izzy Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 03:26:41 PM EST

I've been following this story for awhile with the good intention of writing about it, but we all know where that road goes...

In any case, don't know how many of you have seen/or are aware of the Los Angeles river (yes, we have one... sorta), but it's been an ongoing battle here to get it seen as, y'know, a river.  Or at least something other than the two prevailing views of it as either an extended sewage line or a location for scary movie scenes.

I can't do photos at the moment, but you can see our river in all its glory here:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/01/13/river.jpg

But today, in a bit of good news, we can score one for the good guys...


One of the key points in the battle to get some federal protection for our river, was to have it declared a 'navigable' waterway.  To that end, a group of "semi-crazed Angelenos" navigated it.  

It was quite a to-do, which included dodging police and at least one person getting fired.  There's a youtube here:

And today I'm happy to report this from the LA Times:  EPA declares L.A. River 'traditional navigable waters'

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday declared the entire concrete-lined Los Angeles River channel "traditional navigable waters," a designation crucial to applying Clean Water Act protections throughout its 834-square-mile urban watershed.

(...)The decision may seem odd to people who know the L.A. River as a flood-control channel of treated water a few inches deep flowing between massive, graffiti-marred concrete banks strewn with rotting garbage and broken glass, and occasionally polluted with chemicals illegally dumped in storm drains and gutters that empty into it.

Jackson said the EPA considered factors beyond whether the river's flow and depth can support navigation from its origins at the confluence of the Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek in the San Fernando Valley all the way to San Pedro Bay, a distance of about 51 miles.

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This started as a comment for the OT, but got a bit long, so what the hell...

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 03:28:00 PM EST
I live very near the river. Some spots are beautiful. Some pathetic. I wish they'd restore it to its natural beauty!
by Real History Lisa on Wed Jul 14th, 2010 at 08:59:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jeez, I remember staring down into the river up in Sherman Oaks where it's barely a stream, yet has a huge concrete culvert as if it's a raging torrent.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 04:03:32 PM EST
Sometimes it is.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 04:06:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Contrary to repeated statements, LA isn't a desert - it's a water basin/flood plain.  Before the river was encased in concrete, there's stories of people rowing boats from downtown to Compton.

So despite looking like a harmless trickle, the river does become a raging torrent during parts of the rainy season.  Flash flooding can make the whole thing fill up in a frighteningly short period of time.  

It's something to take seriously -- every couple years someone gets caught in it and, seemingly every year, there's a dog stuck somewhere along it, and the whole city is glued to the tv watching the heroic rescue efforts.  Here's one:



Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 04:15:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ya mean every time city hall threaten the budget of the helicopter rescue team they throw another dog in the river

;-))

jes' kiddin'

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 05:24:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seriously would not surprise me...

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 05:43:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Often enough they have rescued people. One famous episode involved a man who was completely de-pansed by the force of the river. They had to employ pixelization in order to show the video.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 10:40:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was driving  on Sepulveda Blvd. on Feb. 12, 1992 between 10:00 and 11:30 AM to deliver drawings to an engineer for approval. A torrential rain was falling. By noon I was back over Sepulveda Pass and into the LA basin by noon. Seven inches of rain was dumped in the West San Fernando Valley watershed that drains through the LA River via the Sepulveda Basin Dam in a matter of a few hours. Roads in the basin behind the dam were starting to flood by 12:20PM when the Army Corps of Engineers called the manager of the golf course operated by Parks and Recreation and this was insufficient notification to get all maintenance vehicles to high ground or to remove modular irrigation controls that were designed to be removed in a flood.

Woodley Avenue terminates into Burbank Boulevard in the basin half a kilometer north of the dam. By the afternoon the stop sign, which stands about 3 meters above the road, was the only thing above water. The Corps. had been forced to close the flood gated on the dam at 2:00PM lest the volume of water over-top the ~ 10m deep by 20m wide concrete channel which is the flood control for the LA River exiting the dam. 18cm of rain falling over an immediate watershed of >225km2 can produce fearsome results.

The Los Angeles Flood of 1938 was ranked at the time by the Red Cross as one of the most damaging in the US and led to building Sepulveda Dam, Hanson Dam, Whitter Narrows Dam, and the channelization of the LA River. During the 100 year flood of 1994 I recall seeing the LA river running two thirds the way up the concrete walls. Since it was channelized the LA River has always stayed within its banks. It is ugly as sin, but, should a beautification project sufficiently weaken the channel that it fails during a "100 year event" the results would be catastrophically ugly.

I wish The Friends of the River well and am all for doing what can be done to return the channel more to that of a natural stream but we can never forget what the river is capable of doing at its worst, nor can we forget that that worst is likely to become increasingly worse with climate change.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 10:25:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, ar!  Yes, I remember the de-pantsing!  And more flooding and people swimming on the freeway, etc., than I can list.

I wasn't here for the '92 flood, but, of all things, I was moving from Hemet (don't ask), to Cypress during the '94 flood.  I got stuck with my son at the new place, before we had moved anything in.  We kinda camped for a few days until there was what I thought was a break in the rain (or maybe it was only one day and felt like more...).  

So I haul ass in my 1983 Honda Civic and manage to throw almost my son's whole room into it.  Heading back to LA down the 90 with the car stuffed so full I had the hatchback all the way up was one of my more memorable experiences.  Especially since it started to rain again right as I was leaving.  I'm pretty sure I invented car surfing that night.

All this to say I share your concern.  I'm really happy they've gotten the river reclassified, for purposes of keeping it clean and being able to enforce dumping laws and environmental protections, but I shudder at the thought of anyone actually pushing to 'free' the river.  I have heard some environmental commenters saying stuff like that, but so far as I know, it's not on any serious agenda.  I hope.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 at 11:34:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The friend I stayed with in sherman Oaks, just a bit down from Sepulveda dam park worked in flood damage litigation and she told me some incredible tales about how flooding and the local geology conspire.

At the end of her litany of 1000 ways to lose your home in LA, I was obliged to state that LA is a dumb place to put a city.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 06:56:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, but from the fall through the spring, when weather systems regularly move through the basin and wash it clean, or at least change the air, it can be glorious.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 10:45:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Really?  Glorious?  The westsiders must be hoarding it all over on their side.  

I was just recently telling someone LA is the only place that looks worse after a rain -- like visiting your favorite dive bar in the day and seeing it with the sun streaming in.  Definitely not an improvement...

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 04:28:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Beauty exists in the eye of the beholder."
"These glorious scenes I behold."

We went to a concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica in the '70s. It had just rained, it was November, so we left and arrived in the dark. I remember looking over the basin from the 405 interchange and being struck with how beautiful the freshly washed city looked by night. Wendy Waldman attended that same concert and that may have been the inspiration for a line in a song: "The City shining in the rain." I always thought so.

I remember in 1970 there was a snowstorm that sprinkled the foothills overnight. I had not slept that night and drove at dawn up a back road into Griffith Park from my abode in Los Feliz. The air was crystal clear and Burbank to Pasadena gave the appearance of jewels set in the mountain side.

When we were first married we had a two story, two bedroom apartment on South Beverly Drive, south of Pico. At that time we were The Hotel California for other members of both families and I would take visitors up Beverly Drive to Mullholland, stopping to look at the city and the valley at various places and descending via Outpost or onto Barham Blvd to cross the Hollywood Freeway on the way to Patty's, now gone.

Of course I also remember descending into the valley via the 405 through Sepulveda Pass and seeing a purplish brown haze instead of houses. But this did diminish greatly from the late '60s to this decade.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 06:30:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
btw, re: our concerns about flooding, I just took a look at the city's Master Plan for the river.  It looks pretty good and seems to be bearing the flood issues well in mind.  The chapter 2 download has some great illustrations (although someone seems completely enamored of birch trees).  You might find it interesting:

http://www.lariver.org/5.1a_download_publications_LARRMP.htm

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 09:48:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LA may be a dumb place to put a city but it's a great laboratory to study intellectual blindness.

For example, since around 1977 people have realized LA is facing a water shortage.  So they run around, bemused & bewildered, trying to latch onto some.  One suggested solution was to construct a pipeline from British Columbia. (!)  The fact the entire frickin' Pacific Ocean sits at their doorstep and they have vast amounts of unused wind and solar power to power a desalinization complex never enters the Serious People's© little beady minds.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 02:38:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A very similar delusion affects the south east of England

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 06:07:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I confess it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact there are parts of England - for god's sake - facing a water shortage.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 10:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You need to consider the population density. This seems to be 1998 data, but anyway:

Kensington and Chelsea had 169,900 people in 5 square miles, for 36,698 people per square mile.

The densest local authority outside London was Portsmouth with 189,900 people in 15 square miles, or 12,306 people per square mile.

The densest outside the South East is Blackpool with 150,500 people in 14 square miles or 11,146 per square mile.

The whole of England had 49,494,500 people in 50,319 square miles for 984 people per square mile.

According to wiki the population density of the UK is currently 659.6/sq mi. I think there is reason to doubt it can rain enough for so many people. For comparison, in New Mexico where you are, the density is 16.2/sq mi. LA county has a density of only 2,427/sq mi, and the US has a density of 83/sq mi.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 07:03:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I once calculated, one third of the population of Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales), ie nearly 20 million people (probably more in reality) live within 100 miles of london, a part of the country that generally gets about 25" of rain a year. The bits that aren't built upon are intensively farmed.

The area around Clacton, a town on the NE Essex coast about 60 miles from london, has such low rainfall it is officially a desert.

We've drained all the aquifers, the system runs between 90 - 95% utilization. A slight dry spell of a few weeks and we're suffering shortages.

Ironically the London basin, geologically it sits in a deep bed of clay about 300' down is filling up with water but, thanks to centuries of toxic waste and heavy metal dumping, it's so polluted it's hazardous to health. So nobody knows what to do with it.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 07:50:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not disputing the claim, nor your or Mig's assessment and analysis.   Merely reporting I find it incredible s/e England is facing water shortages.  In New Mexico the combination of real estate developers, construction industry, agriculture interests, forest overgrowth, and Global Climate Change has put paid to the snow pack and summer surface water supply.  Meanwhile water distribution percentages were based on, what we now know, was unusually wet years.  In other words, NM has legally guaranteed more water to more people and business entities than exists.  Further the quantity of summer water is shrinking while the quality of that water is lowering.  

I expect Americans, especially white Americans - tho' Red, Yellow, Black, & Brown Americans aren't far behind! - to be dumb & ignorant mofo's regarding things biological and ecological due to the larger tracts of land here versus land constraints in the UK and especially s/e England on the premise:

if you don't have a lot of it you need to take care of what you got.  

At least, I would think, the 0.06% who own the damn thing and steal make gobs of money from the damn thing would take care of the damn thing.  

Guess not.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 11:46:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
on the premise:

if you don't have a lot of it you need to take care of what you got.

Remember this? That was nearly 3 years ago in Spain's largest-circulation paper, but still it isn't even on people's radar that Spain's sustainable consumption level was exceeded 40 years ago.

Guess not.

You can say that again.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 11:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember so I know Spain is facing a water "situation" and, let's face it, Spain has a reputation of being an arid country.  

I mean, just watch those spaghetti westerns.  ;-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 08:28:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, thanks to thatcher, we have destroyed the idea that government might take note of environmental constraints and avoid storing up problems.

We're still building on floodplains, with inevitable consequences every time there's heavy rain.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 12:37:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the sun rays falling on the existing rooftops of the LaLa basin would produce more electricity under current efficiencies than the city uses... not counting the need for balancing.

i'm not implying it would make sense to use solar electricity to power desalinization or nuttin.  oceans are for surfing, not for water.  water comes from Colorado, and Chinatown.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 06:17:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"Can you believe it? We're in the middle of a drought, and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A. "

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 10:43:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chinatown?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jul 9th, 2010 at 11:20:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yup


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 11:57:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A great film.

"Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water. "

In hindsight they probably made the wrong decision

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 07:55:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno...not sure that turning Bishop or Needles into major cities would have been any smarter.

I disagree that LA is a poorly located city - it is in the middle of a large coastal plain, which is a sensible place to put a city. The plain is prone to flooding, but the flood-prone areas are in specific sites and not generalized to the whole region.

The problem isn't where LA is, but how LA was built. Instead of density, after the 1920s there was a shift toward huge urban sprawl, enabled by the automobile. That led to more water-intensive patterns of living, especially in the mid-20th century when there was a widespread delusion that CA had limitless water supplies, partly a function of an unusually wet climate period experienced during the middle decades of the century.

There's been some change in recent years - true urban density is taking shape in nodes across the region, and I'm firmly convinced there is pent-up demand for more. Water usage is becoming smarter, with Orange County having built the nation's largest (some have said the world's largest) wastewater recycling facility to recharge the aquifer.

Still, there's a long way to go. LA developers helped force an $11 billion water bond through the legislature and onto the November ballot to essentially steal water from Northern California agriculture for further sprawl in Southern California. And Southern California still hasn't adopted the kind of widespread restrictions on lawns and other such things that are certainly needed these days.

That $11 billion bond may get pulled off the November ballot. But at least Southern California can tap other regions for water. Here in Monterey, we overshot our water carrying capacity long ago, and have been under state-mandated water rationing since 1999. A desalination plant may get built here in 3-4 years' time, if debates over who will pay for it can get resolved.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 12:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember having heard on NPR a couple of years ago: "In California, two-third of the precipitations fall in Northern California, two-third of the population lives in Southern California." And the Mono Lake story...
by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Jul 11th, 2010 at 11:32:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ya beat me to it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jul 10th, 2010 at 08:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, now don't go dissing my hometown. I truly love Los Angeles. It has so many hidden (and not so hidden) treasures.

How often do people say that's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there? To me, LA is the reverse. It's a terrible place to visit - there's no way you can get a sense of it without months, years, of time. But it's a great place to live. Best weather on the planet, so much free entertainment I can't possibly take advantage of it all. I love it. I love LA!

by Real History Lisa on Wed Jul 14th, 2010 at 09:02:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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