Arroyo Seco Project Finished
By Dan Abendschein
PASADENA – The city celebrated the completion of a $2.5 million project to restore the native environment of the Arroyo Seco stream on Wednesday.
The project transformed a muddy, overgrown, garbage-strewn stretch of the arroyo into a clear-watered fish habitat with natural vegetation.
The Arroyo Seco Foundation, which administered the project, introduced 300 native arroyo chub fish, and planted 240 native trees, including sycamores and oaks. They also removed 60 non- native trees.
The short stretch of stream between the Rose Bowl and Brookside Park also has newly-stabilized trails for walkers and horseback riders. Visitors to the trail can access it from the parking lot by the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center or from Brookside Park.
“This is one of the great celebrations for Pasadena this year,” Mayor Bill Bogaard said at the dedication. “This is a model for cleaning up natural waterways in urban areas.”
Most of the Arroyo Seco was turned into a concrete channel in the 1930s, along with the other rivers in the Los Angeles area, because of flooding concerns. Areas above and below the newly restored stretch are still channelized.
As they became murky and shallow, the areas of the stream in Pasadena long ago lost all of the native fish, Arroyo Seco Foundation Director Tim Brick said. With the return of the chub, he said, scientists will be able to tell if the stream is healthy or not.
“The fish are a major indicator of the health of the stream,” said Brick. The chub is a small four-inch fish that is unique to streams of the San Gabriel Mountain watershed.
Brick said the chub would have to survive over the wet winter, where the stream sees more water volume, to prove they are thriving in the new habitat.
To that end, the foundation built natural side pools that run alongside the stream, giving the fish a shelter from the currents, Brick said.
The city of Pasadena has been a partner in the project, working to install garbage catchers in storm drains all over the city. That should eventually reduce garbage in the river by 90 percent, according to the foundation.
The city has already completed a project in the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center parking lot that will catch oil run-off and filter it so it does not end up in the river. The parking lot is immediately adjacent to the arroyo and has been a major source of contamination for it.
There may yet be bigger plans for the river – the foundation is in the midst of a study to see what other parts of the river could be restored to a natural habitat.
Brick said he would like to look at removing man-made barriers higher up in the arroyo to bring trout back to the lower parts.
Some day, Brick said, he hopes to see a full return of the steelhead trout, a large fish species that migrates between the ocean and its spawning grounds along inland rivers. That would require some serious habitat restoration along the rest of the Arroyo Seco, as well as the Los Angeles River down to Long Beach.
“I probably won’t be in charge of that project,” Brick said. “That will be a task for the next generation.”
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