Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Environmentalists seek help from Angelenos to map the city's uncounted small waterways

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Today on the radio, I report on a call issued by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission to all Angelenos. They want your creeks and streams: the idea is to improve the city’s protection of these small watweways.

Advocates for the river, for these small waterways, argue that most of L.A.'s little streams are either gone or controlled in pipes and concrete channels. They hope to use new information in planning a stream protection ordinance in the city.

Landscape architect Jessica Hall, a longtime advocate for "daylighting" streams in LA, says the small waterways that remain can be sources of confusion for builders and urban planners."I’ve seen this situation a few times where because the creeks are not mapped," she says, "building and safety officials aren’t aware of their presence and don’t know to take the steps that they need to take to protect the streams when a neighbor comes in and wants to McMansionize their property."

Hall and others argue the city’s building department often doesn’t know where the remaining creeks and streams are, unless someone reports them, or the waterways spark a property dispute. "Things like that happen because the streams themselves are not well documented and there isn’t a clear set of policies regarding how to manage them," Hall says.  

Hall mapped creeks some years ago. Historically, so has the city. But she says nobody’s checked the accuracy of the maps in years. "What that leaves us with is a situation where they would be hard pressed to use something like that as a final list without actually being able to verify that the streams are there," says Hall.

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Hall's blog, LA Creek Freak, is a pretty authoritative source on the river's smaller pieces. But the city has some information on this too. At LA's stormwater website, creek freak author Joe Linton writes that to get involved with the cause, people can start: 

using reusable grocery bagstending to your pet’s poopparticipating in clean-up eventsharvesting rainwaterplanting a creek-friendly landscape in your yard and working to green your street. Some other ways that Jessica Hall and I have written about at our blog L.A. Creek Freak include: riding your bicyclere-using greywater, and protecting our more natural streams.

The most obvious idea? The one that the Friends of the LA River, the city of LA, and creek freaks can all agree on? Just spending time out there, listening to the river, taking pictures of it, and seeing what's up. 

So what's your favorite part of the LA River? And do you have a secret favorite creek? 

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