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Arroyo Seco Foundation

News of the Arroyo


In good news about L.A. River, what about Arroyo Seco?: Guest commentary





<b>August 20, 2014</b> - There's good news and even better news for Arroyo lovers about the US Army Corps of Engineer's Arroyo Seco restoration study. Tim Brick evokes President Roosevelt's views on the unique qualities of the Arroyo Seco.<b></b> -


Tim Brick


Pasadena Star-News


For local residents who shared the recent excitement about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers billion-dollar restoration plan for the Los Angeles River and wondered “What about the Arroyo Seco?,” there’s good news and even better news. The good news is that the restoration of the confluence of the Arroyo Seco with the L.A. River near Dodger Stadium is a main feature of the plan. The even better news is that for more than a decade the Army Corps has been engaged in a similar ecosystem study of the rest of the Arroyo Seco all the way up to the San Gabriel Mountains. That plan, now nearing completion, could provide an even more significant restoration and transformation of Southern California’s most celebrated canyon.

Meanwhile Arroyo watchers have been waiting for L.A. County Flood Control District’s response to the barrage of criticism leveled at its $100 million plan to truck sediment out of Devil’s Gate Dam to distant landfills. More than 250 individuals and organizations offered a wide array of criticisms of the plan, most of which share the view that it is not sustainable and fails to preserve the rich environmental legacy of the Arroyo. Ironically LACFCD is the lead local sponsor of the Corps’ ecosystem study that holds so much promise for a renewed Arroyo.

What is the magic of the Arroyo Seco that has been so important to our region? As the Arroyo Seco emerges from the San Gabriel Mountains, its steep descent slows and the waters cut through an urbanized alluvial plain. Beneath this region, which includes La Cañada Flintridge, Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and part of Arcadia, lies the Raymond Basin — a massive bowl of sand and gravel filled with water that provides about half of local water supplies. After the stream crosses the Raymond Fault at the southern end of Pasadena, it proceeds through South Pasadena and Northeast L.A. to the confluence with the L.A. River near downtown Los Angeles.

The flowing water and fertile soil conditions have endowed Arroyo Seco communities with a rich natural heritage. Theodore Roosevelt witnessed it in 1911 when he rode through the Arroyo and proclaimed to the mayor of Pasadena, “This Arroyo would make one of the greatest parks in the world.”

But how have we treated the Arroyo Seco since 1911? We’ve wrung the water and wildlife out of it. We have dammed it and paved it. We’ve even built a freeway through it. We have contaminated it with toxic chemicals that have knocked out most local water wells. The fish and frogs that frolicked in the Arroyo are gone. The alders and willows have been replaced by parking lots. We buried the river in an open concrete tomb.

Through all this, the Arroyo has retained a great deal of its grandeur, mostly because of the numerous parks and open space linkages that still line the gentle stream. Today the Arroyo is our Walden Pond, our link with the nature of Southern California. Like any great river, the Arroyo leads us all to new and exciting places — the majestic mountains to the north and the L.A. River and downtown Los Angeles to the south.

The USACE ecosystem study, conducted in cooperation with the county, Pasadena, Los Angeles, La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena, sets out these planning objectives, which encapsulate the vision:

  • To reduce further ecosystem degradation by restoring water-related habitats;

  • To restore connectivity of habitats and provide wildlife corridors;

  • To restore water quality to support aquatic habitat and wildlife;

  • To design restoration features that reduce flood damage and channel erosion; and

  • To provide recreational opportunities and aesthetics within the watershed.

Sadly LACFCD’s sediment trucking program does not incorporate the principles of integrated watershed and ecosystem management that characterize the federal study. The USACE program, though, provides the basis for a sediment removal and management program that will be truly sustainable and respect the rare ecosystem values found in the Hahamongna basin and throughout the Arroyo Seco.

The Corps program, now being finalized, would provide federal support for a restored Arroyo Seco that could include:
  • sustainable flood and sediment management;

  • a live stream in the Central Arroyo around the Rose Bowl and through Brookside Park;

  • the removal of the concrete pit in Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo from the Colorado Street Bridge to South Pasadena; and

  • linking the parks in Los Angeles into a river park system.

Hopefully LACFCD will respond positively to the myriad criticisms of their trucking program by shaping a sustainable plan for flood and sediment management in Hahamongna that integrates it into the restoration of the Arroyo Seco from the mountains to downtown Los Angeles. But this will take strong political leadership of the sort that Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti showed in fighting for an ambitious L.A. River restoration program.

That restored Arroyo should be the environmental legacy of our generation, echoing the admonition of Theodore Roosevelt: “To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified.”

Tim Brick is managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation.




Arroyo Seco Foundation, 570 W. Avenue 26 #450, Los Angeles, CA 90065-1011
PO Box 91622, Pasadena, CA 91109-1622 (323) 405-7326