Approximately $12 million for the Bouquet Canyon Creek Recovery Project was unanimously approved in a State Wildlife Conservation Board meeting on Aug. 24 after a decade of complaints from Bouquet Canyon residents.
“Receiving this grant will go a long way in improving public safety, restoring and preserving wildlife habitat, and enhancing the local water supply,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a press release. “Having successfully obtained this grant award for our county is also a testament to our persistent and unrelenting advocacy work. I am committed to bringing long-term relief to the residents of the area. Although this is a complex project involving state and federal partners, I won’t stop my advocacy work and support until the improvements are made.”
The grant will allow the county to enter the design phase of a major habitat restoration project along an 8-mile stretch of Bouquet Canyon Creek, downstream of Bouquet Reservoir.
Stephanie English, a representative of L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, said Barger’s office is working to schedule an outreach meeting with the community to provide further details on the approved project and have the resources needed to answer residents’ questions. This meeting is expected to be announced within the next couple of weeks but will be taking place at Grace Baptist Church.
The primary reason for the delay between the approval of the project and the meeting to be held by Barger’s office is the needed collaboration from all forms of government involved with the project.
English emphasized that the project is one that needs the assistance of the county, state and federal government.
Anthony Angelini, a representative for state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, emphasized this as well at a local meeting on Tuesday held by Bouquet Canyon community members at LARC Ranch.
“It’s a lot easier to get something done if everybody’s on the same page and they’re all going towards the same goal,” said Angelini. “My goal will be to try and see how we can work together and be as open as I possibly can about how the process works, so that at least you can all know where we are in the process.”
“The last thing I want to hear is, ‘I’ve had 30 meetings like this and they’re all they always end the same way and nobody knows what to do.’”
Bouquet Canyon Creek background
Bouquet Canyon Creek has been flowing since 1932 and LARC Ranch was established in 1959.
LARC Ranch is a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and residential facilities for developmentally disabled adults.
LARC and Bouquet Canyon residents’ well water supply was reduced to a trickle over concerns of road flooding a decade ago due to the water being no longer released regularly from the Bouquet Reservoir, owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The primary issue that has been halting a large majority of progress on the issue has been the presence of the unarmored threespine stickleback, an endangered fish in Bouquet Creek.
In 2014, Bob Blunt, a district ranger for the Angeles National Forest in the Santa Clarita Valley at the time, had created a plan to transform the Zuni Campground into an “environmental classroom.” This would allow for work to be put forth in cleaning, removing or replacing the existing culvert on the campground access road.
This plan never came to fruition.
Kathleen Sturkey, executive director of LARC Ranch, said that LARC began trucking 11,000 gallons of water each month to support the 65-acre ranch and its residents. This process is costing LARC thousands of dollars per month.
Sturkey pursued the option of providing LARC with its own water source via a pipeline that would extend 1.75 miles along Bouquet Canyon Road to LARC and the Lily of the Valley Mobile Village, from Shadow Valley Lane to the LARC turnout road.
The SCV Water Agency secured $3.93 million in grant funding for the project in December 2021. The pipeline would connect LARC and other Bouquet Canyon water users to the public water system. In July, SCV Water announced that construction could begin in 2024.
“The design phase is nearing completion and bid documents are being prepared,” wrote Kevin Strauss, communications manager for SCV Water.
Bouquet Canyon Network holds Community Watershed Meeting
Attendees and speakers at Tuesday’s meeting acknowledged the steps made toward getting final solutions, but said that it isn’t enough.
“I find Bouquet Canyon needs some help,” said Edwin Dunn, a local water rights activist.
The three primary issues with the Bouquet Canyon Watershed are that residents are not getting enough water from downstream to fill wells, more water is unable to be released due to overgrowth and debris in the creek, and excess water will overflow onto the roads, creating a hazard.
“Well, what is the function of this creek?” asked Roger Harring, a BCN committee member. “It’s giving homeowners and residents water, but it also has a bigger job and that is to be the sub basin, the groundwater that is part of the upper watershed of the Santa Clara River.”
Harring shared a California Rapid Assessment Method analysis from 2014 of a 3.5-mile private riparian habitat in the Bouquet Canyon Creek.
The CRAM measures and records “visual metrics” of riparian habitats in order to understand the integrity of the landscape, hydrology, physical and biotic factors within a watershed.
Additionally, primary stress factors that cause degradation within a watershed can be identified, which allow for best management practices to be recommended for improving the watershed.
The 3.5-mile stretch scored a 59% based on the criteria of the CRAM, which he felt needed to be reevaluated.
Harring brought Bill Neill, a member of the California Invasive Plant Council, earlier Tuesday to walk and evaluate the creek’s current status.
“It actually looks pretty good, I think, compared to urban riparian areas,” said Neil.
Arundo, Iris and palm trees were located in the creek.
“For probably 15 to 20 years, the creek has not been cleaned over,” said Roy Marson, a BCN committee member. “We’re all suffering because of this.”
Harring presented at the Tuesday meeting an estimate of how much water is allocated or provided by the Bouquet Canyon Watershed and used.
According to Harring, the Bouquet Canyon reservoir has a total carrying capacity of 36,500 acre-feet per year. The current contractual rate of release for the Bouquet Canyon Watershed was estimated at 2,100 acre-feet per year, approximately 684 million gallons.
Dustin Fischer, a representative from the Department of Water & Power, revealed that, in April, 0.07 cfs (cubic feet per second) of water was released from the Bouquet Canyon reservoir. The amount released increased to 2. cfs following and as of Tuesday, 2.5 cfs is the rate of release, increasing the amount of water available to recharge wells in Bouquet Canyon.
Fischer was only able to answer a few of the audience’s questions which presented much frustration amongst the crowd of attendees.
“This is the same meeting that I’ve been coming to for the last 10 years,” said attendee Ted Hull. “I’ve heard the same comments, still no results.”