29 April 2010

Arundo Undone (Nearly)

Thanks to the determined effort of Hills for Everyone and the Santa Ana Watershed Association, the eradication of the pernicious arundo donax, which had overrun a significant portion of Carbon [Canyon] Creek to nearly the Orange County/San Bernardino County line, is progressing effectively and rapidly.  Here is some pertinent information from a recent press release issued by the two organizations:

Within days of the devastating Freeway Complex Fire and amidst a heartbreaking sea of charred woodlands, residents saw a free-flowing and visible Carbon Canyon Creek. This creek, which was formerly choked and hidden by the thick, tall, non-native Arundo, was now acting and looking like a natural stream. Yet just days after the fire, this insistent plant had already grown six inches. Without intervention it would soon become 20 feet high again.

At the first Brea City Council meeting following the fire, residents in the rural community of Olinda Village (eastern Brea) asked for city support to permanently remove the Arundo. A meeting with the City of Brea and others was organized to discuss how to use the fire’s removal of the Arundo biomass to permanently clear the stream. Proper mapping and identification of the landowners were the next steps. Since this area was already on its project list, the Santa Ana Watershed Association (SAWA), quickly moved forward to do the mapping and secure the necessary permits and permissions to spray the Arundo with an herbicide. With the formerly dense biomass reduced to mere stubs, spraying would not be nearly as expensive or hard to apply as previously estimated.

Funding this endeavor involved creativity, partnership and timeliness. With state bond funds frozen, Hills For Everyone, a regional non-profit, offered the first funding in the amount of $5,000. Next, the City of Brea contributed $25,000 from water quality funds. The Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council (based in Chino Hills) wrote and received a $40,000 grant from CalFire. The Department of Parks and Recreation negotiated the removal of the Arundo as mitigation for several nearby projects. CalTrans quickly gave permission to the Santa Ana River & Orange County Weed Management Area to spray on its right-of-way along this state highway (SR 142). Next, SAWA secured permission from seven of the eight private landowners along the stream.

Spraying by SAWA and the Weed Management Area occurred throughout 2009. For fullest effect, experts leave the plants alone for up to one year. The tall, dying stands can be seen lining Carbon Canyon Road. Even in their dry state, the plants are less flammable than healthy growing Arundo. Normally creeks act as a barrier to the spread of fire by slowing its progress yet the Arundo in this Creek spread the November 2008 fire upstream.

Frustrated by the lack of response from one last landowner (the likely site of the original infestation), Fire Safe Council members contacted Jim Markman, Brea’s City Attorney, to see if any legal remedies existed. After more than a year of no responses from the landowner, within days, Markman had contacted the landowner’s attorney. She, in turn, contacted the landowner’s business manager in Japan, who contacted the landowner. He gave permission to spray. The spraying on this last link is expected to occur on Friday April 23.

The coordinated effort, would not have been possible without the necessary research, landowner cooperation, partnerships, strategic funding allocations and trust. Though the Arundo will need to be sprayed for many more years and more funding is needed, the worst is over. Residents, landowners, and multiple local, regional and state governmental entities are looking forward to a healthy Carbon Canyon Creek, and a continued cooperation over its stewardship.

Project partners include, in alphabetical order: California Department of Parks and Recreation, CalFire, Cal Trans, Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, Chino Valley Fire District, City of Brea, City of Brea Fire Department, Hills For Everyone, Santa Ana River & Orange County Weed Management Area and Santa Ana Watershed Association.

Particularly impressive here is the assistance of the Brea City Attorney in leaning on the Japan-based owner of the La Vida Mineral Springs property to secure the permission needed to treat the area that still had untreated arundo.  It will be a week ago tomorrow that the spraying at La Vida occurred and then the slow, but sure, infiltration of the herbicide and dying of the invasive plant will take place over coming months.
This project also demonstrates that multi-agency cooperation is, indeed, possible when the opportune moment comes in a situation like the one that followed the devastation of the Freeway Complex fire.  As the press release states, the destruction was horrific, but there was, at least, this one positive outcome.  Anyone who has taken the time to get a good look at the creek during this past rainy season has seen how much of a diffference there is in water flow when the arundo is restricted.  Imagine what it will be like someday when it is gone completely.
One of the great assets in Carbon Canyon, in a region in which water courses have nearly universally and uniformly been turned into stark flood control channels, is the natural beauty evidenced in Carbon [Canyon] Creek, especially when there is a good water flow.  The permanent eradication, should the project be carried through to completion, of the nefarious arundo will only heighten the effect that the creek has in this special place.  To all of those involved in this incredible project, thanks so much for all you have done!


Ray Byworth said...

That's great for the Brea side of Carbon Canyon but what is happen with the Chino Hills/Sleepy Hollow side of Carbon Canyon.
I am a home owner in the Sleepy Hollow area and the Carbon Canyon Creek runs right through my property, no one has ever contacted me to get permission to spray that I would willing give.

Paul said...

Hello Ray, here are the contact persons included in the press release from which I excerpted in the post:

California Department of Parks & Recreation (Chino Hills State Park)
Ron Krueper, District Superintendent … 951-940-5622

Linda Nguyen

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council
Jim Powderly, Chino Valley Fire District liaison … 909.902.5280 ext 409

City of Brea
Charlie View, Development Services 714-990-7689

City of Brea Fire Department
Bill Lynxwiler, Fire Prevention Specialist … 714-990-7652

Hills For Everyone
Claire Schlotterbeck … 714-996-0502

Santa Ana River & Orange County Weed Management Area
Bill Neill … 818- 769-0678

Santa Ana Watershed Association
Lee Reeder … 951-522-0440

Dick Zembal … 714-378-3213

I would suggest trying CalFire's Jim Powderly first. In fact, the Fire Safe Council meets next Wednesday, the 5th at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center, so you might consider going and talking to Jim there. Thanks for the comment!