Numerous Bouquet Canyon residents expressed their frustrations and desire for immediate solutions as they heard the planning for the Bouquet Canyon Creek Recovery Project Planning will not be finished until 2026 at the earliest.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger and the L.A. County Department of Public Works team hosted the community information meeting on Thursday. This meeting was prompted after a Sept. 5 meeting, held by Bouquet Canyon community members at LARC Ranch, had attendees and speakers expressing their disdain and wanting to hear progress from local representatives.
The panel of representatives present on Thursday included: Stephanie English representing Barger, Tammy Stevens representing Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, Chris Huff representing Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, Erinn Wilson with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Martin Araiza with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Aaron Ash with the Angeles National Forest, Sterling Klippel with the county Public Works Department, Saeed Jorat with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and Brent Payne with the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency.
The State Wildlife Conservation Board on Aug. 24 unanimously approved $12 million to be allocated from its general fund toward creating habitat enhancement and restoration projects for aquatic species in Bouquet Canyon Creek.
The Bouquet Canyon Creek Recovery Project Planning only involves the feasibility and planning studies for possible future actions. The grant is for the planning, design and environmental compliance. This would develop numerous “shovel-ready” implementation projects.
According to the report from the board meeting, the applicant, Los Angeles County Public Works, with full design documents and environmental documents and permits, would be in the position to organize construction bids and engage a contractor for the construction.
The project would be located along approximately 8 miles of Bouquet Canyon Creek, as it runs through Bouquet Canyon from below Bouquet Reservoir to where the creek enters the urban area of Santa Clarita. This stretch is located within the Angeles National Forest. Bouquet reservoir is owned and operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Habitat enhancement and restoration projects for the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback, a small fish, are the primary focus. These will also benefit other rare, threatened and endangered riparian and aquatic species that inhabit Bouquet Canyon, according to the board report.
The project is also set to increase the water supply, provide sediment management and conveyance, provide flood protection of the adjacent road and increase public access to multiple day-use areas and trails.
The future of Bouquet Canyon Creek Recovery Project Planning
According to Wilson, the primary focus of the plan, from the perspective of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, is that of the recovery of the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback.
“But with implementation of this project, that would address all of these conditions, the sedimentation, the flooding, the safety and the road flooding and the water supply issues,” said Wilson. “So at the same time, we’re going to enhance the degraded aquatic habitat and restore the riparian habitat.”
In 2003 the unarmored threespine stickleback fish was listed as fully protected, meaning that no one would ever be issued a permit to remove the fish from its natural habitat.
“It prevented a lot of maintenance of this road because we weren’t able to write a permit to the county to fix the road, so it just it just stayed in the position that it was in, and it got worse over time,” said Wilson.
Moving forward in the planning process will require the project to apply and obtain many regulatory permits and go through all processes under the California Enviornmental Quality Act.
While the $12 million earned from the grant will help with funding the planning process, it is under the contingencies of being a reimbursable grant. L.A. County Public Works will have to front all costs for the project as well as coming up with operations, maintenance and “long-term management plans.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the grant money at its meeting on Tuesday, but L.A. County Public Works still has to accept the money by finalizing the agreement.
“This project is a high priority for the board and our department,” said Araiza.
The next steps for the project will be to start the bid process and select a consultant.
Araiza said that the earliest date for the project’s planning to be completed is fall 2026.
The announcement of the fall 2026 date for planning completion ruffled the feathers of almost all the meeting’s attendees.
One of the attendees wrote, “I want immediate action,” on a comments note that was read aloud by English as she gathered written and verbal comments and questions.
Some of the concerns brought up were what would happen to the residents’ water supply during construction, the residents’ ability to access their property and the creek during construction, the neglection of the nearby cabins, the current status of the camping areas, moving the stream and, as English read, wanting immediate action.
Roy Marson, a Bouquet Canyon Network member, simultaneously asked and suggested that a portion of the grant money be taken to fix the roads as soon as possible.
English noted the road restoration suggestions, such as raising the road 1 to 2 feet and building barrier walls to block the road from the creek, for future consideration.
Invasive species, such as the yellow iris and yellow mustard, were addressed as areas of concern for the creek, citing that their roots absorb a lot of the water. Wilson assured the residents that during the habitat restoration portion of the project, personnel will do their best to remove as many invasive species as they can to allow the native to grow. However, she said that the full removal of yellow mustard would not be feasible.
Other attendees questioned the integrity of the project, specifically the presence of the unarmored threespine stickleback fish in the creek. Many said that they “have never seen this fish” and that “the trout ate them.”
One attendee said that he was told that the fish was not present in the creek, but this rumor was quickly shut down by Wilson.
“That determination has not been made,” said Wilson in response. “We’ve done genetic studies and they have been determined to still be in the stream.”
The new starting line
English assured the attendees that all the members on the panel, or at least someone to represent their respective organization, will continue to meet monthly to make even more progress on the project.
The project is one that involves collaborations on all levels due to the various jurisdictions of the creek.
“The good news is we’ve made progress at collaboratives at the county, state and federal level,” said English. “The challenging news is that we have a long way to go.”