October 17, 2011

People with too much time on their hands

For about 15 years now, I've been reading articles about how Real Soon Now government officials, concerned citizens, environmental activists and others are going to get together the final version of a plan to restore the Los Angeles River back to its pristine natural state instead of being the big, ugly concrete ditch it has been since 1942, all for only a few billion bucks.

Finally, a reporter on one of these stories went and asked some guy who lives next to the L.A. River about all these plans to fix a flood control project that isn't broken:
"This works exactly how it needs to," he said of the concrete abutment next to his house, with fences to keep out visitors, as water poured into the L.A. River below a Canoga Park High School football practice. "It funnels all the excess water away from residents and businesses. 
"The last thing we want to do is to encourage people to get close to the L.A. River - let's all hold hands and smoke pixie dust and sing `Kumbaya."'

It's worth noting that the Army Corps of Engineers built a lot of the L.A. River concrete ditch in 1942, presumably because they had nothing better to do that year. L.A. had been hit badly by a 50-year flood in 1938: 9.4 inches of rain fell in one stretch. (We had two bigger rain events in 2005.) About two days per year, it's the river from hell, and every few decades it's worse than that. Up until 1825, the LA River used to reach the sea at what's now Marina Del Rey, north of LAX. Then, there was a huge flood and it changed course to what's now the Harbor, about 20 miles south. You really wouldn't want the LA River to change course again.

With hindsight, it's easy to see that they should have set up a huge system of parklands alongside the river to absorb floods, but, they were kind of busy and didn't have the money, what with the Depression and WWII, and so they didn't do that. It's too bad, because my father discovered in 1994 by plotting on a map all the buildings that had to be condemned after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that about 80% of them were on the old streambeds, which were typically around a half-mile wide swath of sand. As the Bible says, a building built on sand ... So, knowing what we know now (and how many people know that), it would have been great if they'd lined the river with golf courses and parks, but they didn't.

And they aren't going to do that now, either. 

So, Don't Ditch the Ditch.

33 comments:

Carol said...

I used to play in the LA River circa 1954, swimming under water, with my eyes open yet. It smelled funny.

Yeah I wonder if people now have any idea how that area used to flood out, and rivers wander all over the place.

Anonymous said...

If they ditch the ditch, where will they film all those car chase scenes?

Five Daarstens said...

It's amazing that the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't try to learn anything from the Dutch flood control efforts. They are much better at it for a very good reason. In the 1200's alone, tens of thousands died in massive floods.

David Davenport said...

It's amazing that the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't try to learn anything from the Dutch flood control efforts. They are much better at it for a very good reason. In the 1200's alone, tens of thousands died in massive floods.

Oh, those EUro-peeuns are so much more so much more sophist-O-cated, aren't they? No.

Los Angeles in 1938 was nothing like Holland. The LA River in LA already flowed through an urban and industrial area. Dikes, levees, land reclamation from the sea, etc., irrelevant to infrequent, occasional flash flooding.

For movie scenes of a white kid playing in the LA River concrete half pipe ( "half pipe" -- from snowboarding ) in the early 1950's, see the movie "Them."

10/17/11 7:11 PM

Anonymous said...

there's a nice walking path there now between laurel and coldwater. why not more parks? they could shut them down if there was danger of flooding.

8 said...

What's the cost of the flood control? In my Northeast hometown, there used to be frequent flooding. Around the same time I believe, the Army Corps of Engineers put in concrete flood control. The past few years complaints have grown by environmentalists and locals who think it's ugly. In a touristy section of the country, the concrete through the middle of the downtown does make it look industrial rather than quaint New England. However, this year's heavy rains would have destroyed the town and now everyone is thankful for the flood control.

What is the cost of flood control versus even one major flood? I bet the ROI is extremely high.

jimmies tutu said...

OT: I think people with too much time on their hands is a problem of modern life. Once in awhile I'll hear the phrase "the end of work"as well which is quite frightening in its implications.

Looking around town during the day, when I sort of legitimately don't have to work, I've noticed that not all the traffic is of people in my situation. Instead, you have people of all ages and genders though this isn't a retirement community or a college town.

I can't help but remember an old maxim: "idle hands are the devil's workshop". What to do with non old, non impaired adults with nothing to do for hours at a time?

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

I can't help but remember an old maxim: "idle hands are the devil's workshop". What to do with non old, non impaired adults with nothing to do for hours at a time?

Netflix, Gamefly and Internet porn.

I am Lugash.

Professor Hale said...

They have to keep the LA river like it is. Otherwise, the next time the giant ant attack, they won't have any big tunnels that the Army can drive jeeps into to search for timmy.

fish said...

I propose that we make it a felony to use the word "Kumbaya". (or any derivation) anywhere except 6th grade sleep away camp!

Dahinda said...

In Chicago, both the Des Plaines River and the Chicago River on the north side are surrounded by parks, golf courses and forest preserves and both flood constantly. I remember driving along one expressway near the Des Plaines, that was raised, so it wasn't flooded, but it was totally surrounded by water, like we were driving through a lake. The only way a person could tell that there was a city there was the two golden McDonald's arches sticking out of the water!

Anonymous said...

What reservoir was used in the filming of "Chinatown"?

Rainforest Giant said...

Sorry,

I do not feel badly for anyone in California. You guys refuse to build your own power plants then steal our power. You refuse to keep your populations under some kind of control in a desert then you try to steal our water.

Worse, you incubate the type of useless moonbats that agitate for that rewilding crap. Then they come here and want to blow up our dams while still stealing our power and water.

As far as I am concerned they could re-green the whole state of Californication from Baja to Oregon. Every square inch of ground that isn't already paved should be sacrosanct and they should re-introduce everything from the Grizzly bear and lion to the elephant and rhino.

The quicker we thin the moonbat herd the better.

Kylie said...

"It's too bad, because my father discovered in 1994 by plotting on a map all the buildings that had to be condemned after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that about 80% of them were on the old streambeds, which were typically around a half-mile wide swath of sand."

He would. What a fascinating man. As always, thanks for mentioning him.

"Looking around town during the day, when I sort of legitimately don't have to work, I've noticed that not all the traffic is of people in my situation. Instead, you have people of all ages and genders though this isn't a retirement community or a college town."

I quit working when I developed "quality of life" health problems and my husband works 12 hour shifts on weekends. When we take a chort-cut through the projects during weekdays, we invariably see adults who appear younger and, in my case, healthier, just milling around. I always say, "Look, honey, they must work weekends just like you do!" Yeah, right.

"I can't help but remember an old maxim: 'idle hands are the devil's workshop'."

Even though I no longer work to earn money, I definitely earn my keep--and my leisure--by doing house and yard work every day that I can. It never fails to surprise me to see moms who, though younger and in better shape than I am, let the house and yardwork go and fritter away their days once their kids are in school most of the day. There is always work to be done. When our area was damaged by storms last summer, I got out there for a couple of hours every day during a heat wave, picking up sticks and small debris. My younger and healthier neighbor did nothing to her devastated yard and even laughed to me about how "lazy" she is. I have to look at her mess every day and I'm not laughing. Then again, she's of the generation that thinks work is optional.

"What to do with non old, non impaired adults with nothing to do for hours at a time?"

If they are truly non-impaired, they should be able to find something constructive to do.

beowulf said...

"It's worth noting that the Army Corps of Engineers built a lot of the L.A. River concrete ditch in 1942, presumably because they had nothing better to do that year."

Maybe they tackled it in between finishing the Pentagon and starting on the A-bomb. :o)

"there's a nice walking path there now between laurel and coldwater. why not more parks?"

Can you imagine how expensive it'd be for buy up the land necessary to make those parks? Los Angeles isn't renowned for its cheap real estate and the right of way costs would end up landing on local taxpayers.

There's no way East Coast congressmen would approve federal money for the Corps of Engineers to buy up developed land for parks, communes and/or medical marijuana clinics in Southern California.

Anonymous said...

Los Angeles, the city that urban planning forgot.

Anonymous said...

Netflix, Gamefly and Internet porn.

Uhh, Goulash, I think you mis-spelled "iSteve".

Fellow Traveler in Berkeley said...

We get the same thing up here with calls to "Restore Hetch Hetchy". For those who may be unfamiliar with Northern California, Hetch Hetchy is an enormous reservoir that was created in the early 1900s by damming one end of a valley in the Sierras, letting it fill with snowmelt, and sending its water to San Francisco. It is next to Yosemute Valley and was considered by those who saw it before it was filled with water to be the more beautiful of the two.

The Restore Hetch Hetchy folks don't generally address the subject of where SF would get its water, or how much, realistically, this project would cost. it is merely The Right Thing To Do.

California kid said...

Up until about 1970, parts of the west San Fernando Valley in the L.A. area were still semi-rural. Along with the orange tree orchards, there were natural drainage ditches for rainwater called a "wash". Like Limekiln Canyon Wash. They were at least 6-8 feet deep and 6 ft wide. Great for boys to explore with the family dog.

Now it's all paved over with concrete walls and bottom and it's fenced off.

What's the point of a society if you turn everything into THX1138 ? Why take away all the adventure for boys ? Why even bother having a society ?

David said...

OT

"Spain's Stolen Babies: An Ugly Past On a Staggering Scale"

Link here.

Steve has mentioned that many guilty white liberals want to close the black-white gap by removing blacks from their "urban parent(s)" and having them raised in a better environment - either an institution, or an adoptive family on board with this program. And Steve has predicted that if this ever happens, then the ultimate result will be exactly what has just now happened in Spain (see link).

dearieme said...

I've just watched a BBC programme on the Spanish stolen babies scandal. It was a lousy show because it muddled together the sending of orphans to orphanages, the stealing of babies from the Reds long ago, the adopting of babies from spinster mothers who didn't get abortions, and the actual scandal, the (alleged) stealing of babies from married mothers and the sale of them to other couples by nuns, priests, nurses and doctors of the Roman Catholic Church. The stealing was accomplished by falsely telling the mother that her baby had died and then selling it. It gave the viewer no grip on the scale of the events, how recently it continued, nor on how good the evidence is. I dare say it is a huge scandal but I wouldn't hang a cat on the evidence the Beeb showed. It seemed to feel that if you repeated the word "fascist" often enough, evidence wouldn't really be necessary.

Kylie said...

"...I wouldn't hang a cat on the evidence the Beeb showed. It seemed to feel that if you repeated the word 'fascist' often enough, evidence wouldn't really be necessary."

It's the same here in the US if you substitute any of the major news networks for "the Beeb" and "racist" for "fascist".

The moral outrage of the left as an irrefutable argument has long since replaced factual evidence in our news media.

Kylie said...

"What reservoir was used in the filming of 'Chinatown'?"

According to the IMDb, the dry river bed was at "Big Tujunga Wash at Foothill Blvd., Sunland, Los Angeles, California, USA".

The place where J.J. Gittes observed Hollis Mulwray watching water drainage to the ocean was "Point Fermin Park - 807 W. Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, USA".

Buttboi said...

dry underground streambeds still cause problems in manhattan too - a water main could break at 120, but the water come out at 4th- the water department still refers to a fascimile 17th dutch map showing the streambeds to find the leaks.

speaking of lost opportunity - if NYC had not had hills leveled and streams filled in it probably would have looked much nicer.

Chris McFarland said...

"The Restore Hetch Hetchy folks don't generally address the subject of where SF would get its water, or how much, realistically, this project would cost. it is merely The Right Thing To Do."

Yes, you are correct on all points. Impractically, however, I'd very much like to see that dam destroyed. The valley was beautiful. If only Mulholland had engineered the beastly thing.

Ray Sawhill said...

Good lord, what's with the disrespect for leisure around here? I got downsized/retired three years ago and I've never been happier. There's a heckuva lot to be said for taking your time, not having to put up with The Man, living life according to your own druthers, noodling and puttering and exploring interests, and just plain goofing off.

Not that I think pleasure, ease, whimsy and feeling good need any other justification, but haven't any of you paloecons read Joseph Pieper?

Christ, American make 'way too much out of work. It's like a national disease.

Anonymous said...

"Los Angeles, the city that urban planning forgot."


But immigrants didn't.

Had no foreigners (legal or illegal) arrived since 1965, L.A. would have about half its problems solved and the other half alleviated. L.A. and California would be better off in every possible way if they had less people.

David Davenport said...

With hindsight, it's easy to see that they should have set up a huge system of parklands alongside the river to absorb floods

Steve, in the 1940's there was lots of parkland -- that is, vacant lots and some farmland or just plain semi-desert nobody cared about -- in the Canoga Park area.

Up through the 1950's, Westerns were still being shot in parts of the SF Valley that are now all filled in. They considered -- oh, maybe Simi Valley -- "on location."

... "Lot of rattlesnakes for man or horse to step on, watch out! ... "Park land my ass! Where's the green vegetation? This is the edge of the Mohave desert," said 1940's dude.

If the water supply from far away were cut off -- see movie "Chinatown" -- much of the LA sprawl would revert to its condition circa 1942. Not a bad outcome if many of the foreigners in So. CA,. went back where they came from.

Anonymous said...

"Good lord, what's with the disrespect for leisure around here? "

I have no problem with my own leisure. It's what those other people do with theirs that bothers me like causing traffic at all times of the day. Whatever happened to that 9 to 5 evacuation of urban areas so that the few left at home during the day never got stalled at a red light and never had to wait in line at the grocery store?

Kylie said...

"Good lord, what's with the disrespect for leisure around here?"

I treasure my leisure time. I don't think there's anything nicer than "the remains of the day". I just think I should do something constructive to earn it.

"I got downsized/retired three years ago and I've never been happier. There's a heckuva lot to be said for taking your time, not having to put up with The Man, living life according to your own druthers, noodling and puttering and exploring interests, and just plain goofing off."

For me, that's the appeal of being a full-time homemaker. I decide my own priorities and do things in the order and at the pace best suited to me. And my non-working hours are sacred--I allow no one except my husband to trespass on them. I love noodling, lounging, puttering, lazing, etc. But I wouldn't want do it all the time any more than I would want to work all the time. Balance and moderation are the keys to happiness for me.

"Not that I think pleasure, ease, whimsy and feeling good need any other justification, but haven't any of you paloecons read Joseph Pieper?"

Nope, haven't read him. Sounds too much like work to me.

"Christ, American make 'way too much out of work. It's like a national disease."

Apparently, it's a disease to which large swaths of the American population have developed a hardy resistance.

Anonymous said...

"
If the water supply from far away were cut off -- see movie "Chinatown" -- much of the LA sprawl would revert to its condition circa 1942. Not a bad outcome if many of the foreigners in So. CA,. went back where they came from."

The issue of water and water rights is going to solve a lot of the southwest's population problems-like it or not. You can't spread the Colorado River around everywhere, and the idea of diverting more northern streams southward will unite all factions against it. Phoenix and L.A. will be smaller in the coming decades. Where will the illegals go next?

jody said...

plus we would lose so many filming locations in LA.

David Davenport said...

I have never been to North Africa. People who have been there say the So. CA coast is like the coast of Morocco or Algeria in regard to geography and climate. The LA River is a wadi. I don't think Holland or Flanders has many Wadis.


Wadi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other uses, see Wadi (disambiguation).

...

Wadi (Arabic: وادي‎ wādī; also: Vadi) is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry (ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.
Contents [hide]

...

In North Africa the transcription Oued, pronounced as Wad, is used. The term kouri is used in Hausa speaking and surrounding areas of West Africa. The Hebrew term nahal (נחל) and Hindi/Urdu term "Nala" is synonymous in meaning and usage.
Some names of Spanish locations are derived from Andalusian Arabic toponyms where wādī was used to mean a permanent river, for example: Guadalcanal, Guadalajara from wādī al-hidjārah = "river of stones", or Guadalquivir from al-wādī al-kabīr = "the great river". Seasonal streams, frequent in south-east Spain, are called rambla instead.
The term wādī is very widely found in Arabic toponyms.
[edit]Hydrological action

Wadi
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Modern English usage differentiates a wadi from another canyon or wash by the action and prevalence of water. Wadis, as drainage courses, are formed by water, but are distinguished from river valleys or gullies in that surface water is intermittent or ephemeral. Wadis, cut by stream in a desert environment, generally are dry year round except after a rain. The desert environment is characterized by a sudden but infrequent heavy rainfall often resulting in flash floods. Crossing wadis at certain times of the year can be dangerous because of unexpected flash floods. Such flash floods cause several deaths each year in North America and many Middle Eastern countries.

Wadis tend to be associated with centers of human population because sub-surface water is sometimes available in them. Nomadic and pastoral desert peoples will rely on seasonal vegetation found in wadis, even in regions as dry as the Sahara, as they travel in complex transhumance routes.

The centrality of wadis to water - and human life - in desert environments gave birth to the distinct sub-field of "Wadi Hydrology" in the 1990s.[1]
[edit]Wadi deposits

Deposition in a wadi is rapid because of the sudden loss of stream velocity and seepage of water into the porous sediment. Wadi deposits are thus usually poorly-sorted gravels and sands. These sediments are often reworked by eolian processes.[2]

Over time, wadi deposits may become "Inverted Wadis" where the presence at one time of underground water caused vegetation and sediment to fill in the Wadi's eroded channel to the point that previous washes appear as ridges running through desert regions.

Biblical references

Job speaks of his friends whom he calls brothers as being like these wadis. The Jewish Study Bible transliterated the word "brook" in Job 6:15 for the word "nachal" נחל, the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic "wadi". The commentator notes, "Wadi, a seasonal stream that may be dangerously overflowing in winter and dry in summer". In his books of commentary, Albert Barnes notes: "The idea here is, that travelers in a caravan would approach the place where water had been found before, but would find the fountain dried up or the stream lost in the sand; and when they looked for refreshment, they found only disappointment".


In American English, a Wadi is a "dry branch" [ of some stream which has flowing water] or a "dry wash" -- a dry gulley or even a canyon which is occasionally washed by floodwater.