Friday, January 21, 2011
My dear garden readers; Would you throw away pristine, nutrient-rich silt? Would you hack down 11 acres of old-growth forest for a dumping ground for said silt? No? Then get ready to be called crazy, wacky, a tree-hugger and more.
Personally, for someone who calls herself a gardenholic, flower freak and other silly names the phrase "tree-hugger" just rolls off my back as unimaginative, but I digress.
Let me explain A) what I have been prattling on about and B) How it ties back to healthy plants and soil for our gardens.
Here in So Cal we have extensive networks of dams and reservoirs across the foothills surrounding our fair cities. Over time the basins fill up with silt and other debris and must be removed. Unfortunately this "debris" is treated like garbage and dumped in a vast network of holding areas, landfills and other unsuitable areas.
The latest victim of this short-sighted policy is an old-growth valley of oak and sycamore trees dubbed the Arcadia Woodlands by "activists". It was unlucky enough to be situated beneath the Santa Anita Dam and leased from the US Forest Service by the LA County Department of Public Works who is responsible for maintenance of the reservoir. In their defense I will point out that LACDPW had always planned on using this land as a "debris field". The grove was part of their "Sediment Placement Site" which is full of older silt. So LACDPW planned on "reducing vegetation" to make room for the new silt.
The short story is they clearcut 11 acres of old-growth oak and sycamore trees around 4 protesters who were up in the trees. The Sheriff's Department got the "crazy tree-sitters" down after blocking off access to the area (including media). The Erysichthonian Deed was finished during the dark of night. In a final act of irony the LA County Supervisor who probably could have prevented the destruction, now wants to spend $650,000 on "restoration". Anyone know were we can buy 147 mature oak trees?
I have written about the Arcadia Woodlands on my Los Angeles blog AngelCityArt and my fellow southern California garden blogger and native plant sage Barbara E posted an incredibly informative, organized and easy to read Woodlands Recap on her blog Wild Suburbia.
It's the Silt, Silly
One of the questions you may be asking yourself is; What does this have to do about my soil again? If you haven't caught on yet it's about the silt, silly. The Santa Anita Dam is used for drinking water and is located in Angeles National Forest. Many other reservoirs dotting the foothills up and down the southland are either in or located directly adjacent to a pristine National or State park. Interested yet?
When I first heard about this as a gardener I thought hey, if it's good enough for the Cradle of Civilization why not me? A search on "silt recycling" finally turned up a brilliant program called Mud to Parks in Illinois. This program has restored the Illinois river and reclaimed several acres of land. They just finished the bidding process on Phase II and now a company in the area is dredging silt for sale.
The Silt Recycling Solution
One of the complaints Certain Individuals (and Agencies) have about us "crazy environmentalists" is that we just scream not in my backyard without offering any solutions.
Here is my solution; bring us a silt recycling program.
Stop storing it, stop dumping it in landfills and start harvesting this incredibly rich natural resource. And gosh, maybe we can save a few more oak groves along the way.
The Illinois program requires silt to be dredged and then 'dewatered' for a year or more. In California we have silt that has been piled up across the state for decades! In the immortal words of William Mulholland; "There it is. Take it."
Dorks for Dirt
I am calling on my fellow gardeners and nature lovers to start a revolution of common sense. A Silt Recycling Revolution. If you happen to live in Southern California, drop me a note. But I'm betting that this is happening all across the nation. The pilot program for the first Mud to Parks program cost $75,000.
Perhaps locally we can use some of that $650,000 for an Arcadia Woodlands Memorial Get Smart With Silt Project.
You need to find out about the silt issues in your area and which agency is responsible for maintenance. It may be from an overflowing reservoir or a clogged waterway. Where does the sediment go? How much is going to waste across your state?
Perhaps you might gently ask your friendly local US Army Corps of Engineers rep to speak to their counterparts in Illinois for ideas on implementing a similar program in your area. Ask your local agencies and elected officials and/or environmental groups to start a program. Don't forget to tell them how the Fox Waterway Agency is selling their silt for $12 a cubic yard. Perhaps that will get their attention.
At the very least you may be able to get a simple recycling program started. Los Angeles allows residents to bring their own containers and pick up shredded plant material collected in the city's green recycling bins. I would have loved the opportunity to swing by the old Sediment Placement Site for some of their existing "debris", laughing all the way to my compost pile and vegetable garden.
You're in Good Company
The Mud to Parks program was started by one scientist protesting the waste of sediment in Illinois. I'm sure they called him a crazy scientist. I call on all my nutty plant pals to proudly carry on the tradition in their areas. I would also pray that my fellow bloggers cover the issue in their areas and start their own Dirt Revolution.