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1978 - St. Francis Dam site becomes a State Landmark [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Feb 23, 2014

darrylmanzer021014We have been blessed with perfect Chamber of Commerce weather: mild, warm temperatures during the day, cooling off at night. I like to think we have had some evenings perfect for holding a special someone close. We have also had good temps for hiking our many trails and pathways of the SCV.

Looking ahead, the weather forecasters are calling for lots of rain in the later days of the month. At least two days of rain – and for us, that would be a lot of rain. It will take many inches of rain to get some water into the ground. When the ground is saturated, we get those all-too-familiar mud slides and such.

Back in my old hometown of Mentryville, mudslides and flooding have been common. I was visiting the old place during the week just passed, and I still have to laugh at some of the efforts to bridge and channel the creek in Pico Canyon. Once again I say to those who have attempted to build those bridges: Every bridge ever built over Pico Creek in Mentryville has failed.

The little creek that never seems to have much water has many times found a new direction over, under and around the bridges. Even the largest culvert-bridge, located about 1.7 miles from the schoolhouse, has washed out. I watched it one time. Glad I was on a horse. I would have been stuck up the canyon, had I been in the old 1960 Chevy pickup truck we had.

It was the winter of 1962-63 when the flooding happened – the winter after the 1962 fire that hadn’t even gone up the canyon past Minnie-Lotta Canyon where the old bakery sits. The year prior to the fire had been wet, too.

The water level in Pico Creek can rise quickly in a good rain. Click image to read about it.

The water level in Pico Creek can rise quickly in a good rain. Click image to read about it.

As I often do, I was talking with a visitor to Pico Canyon and Mentryville who had no idea the place existed. He said he was a civil engineer. We talked about the hill that has been cut away behind Pico Cottage (wrongly called “the Big House,” but it is a big house). We both remarked that the nearly vertical cut into the hill was only going to result in a near catastrophic failure of the bank, should it ever rain.

Then we talked of the brush abatement program on Mustard Hill. It really looks like some weed killer was used on the hillside. Can we say more erosion and mud? Can we say, dumb?

If you’ve hiked up Pico Canyon or Towsley Canyon or even taken a stroll around the St. Francis Dam site, you might not even realize that if it weren’t for the roads and trails, you might not know mankind was ever there.

The Earth is quickly moving to erase the tiny little efforts by man to change it. Places where hundreds of people lived and worked are now just about as natural as they were when first found. You’d never know there were houses and barns, workshops and wells and tanks and … you get the idea.

Every time I hear someone moan about the cattle causing erosion in the creeks and rivers of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the other northern states west of Wisconsin, I have to laugh out loud. In an area that once had maybe 30 million North American bison, we are worried about how a few thousand domestic cattle might cause damage. These same folks also say the cows are emitting gasses that add to the greenhouse effect. Did they forget the bison? Bet they didn’t know they were there at one time.

I have to laugh when I hear or read that climate change is manmade. We aren’t helping it not happen, but we aren’t the cause. I doubt we can even think of a solution.

Some of us remember when you could drive over the hill to that lesser valley south of us and see a blanket of smog covering the area from Chatsworth to Sunland. Sometimes that smog would make its way into the SCV.

Our eyes burnt and our lungs did, too. We soon enacted measures to reduce emissions from automobiles and other motor vehicles. Smog Alert days seem to be rare now. One would think that since we have cleaned up the air of the most industrialized nation, our climate would change, too.

Maybe it has changed. Just maybe. For the better, it seems.

The coaches at Hart High in the 1960s didn’t keep us from going outside just because of a little smog. We went out to run laps, with smog or without it. It was the price we paid for our high-compression engines on our cars that had to have gasoline with lead additives mixed into it.

Over the years, the sky has cleared and the smog has lessened. Of course we have a lot fewer cattle here now, too. Maybe that is what changed the weather here.

Do you think that smog might have been the result of all those cattle? Horses, too? Goats and other domesticated critters, too.

I don’t know. The answer is elusive. “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…”

Maybe the song was right after all.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

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