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Santa Clarita CA
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1873 - Santa Barbara lawyers Charles Fernald and J.T. Richards purchase Rancho San Francisco for $33,000 (75 cents an acre) in a sheriff's sale [story]

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieSaw something yesterday that we’ve not seen in a long time. Yes, there is water in our creeks and river. The Santa Clara is flowing. For those of you who haven’t seen our river with surface water, now is the time to look.

The Santa Clara River has water in it all the time, but it is usually under the sand. You can dig down a few feet, and the hole will have water in it in no time. It would be great if we could direct a lot of that water to a reservoir or lake. Instead we have a high-speed rail system coming.

How many of you saw the sprinklers running in various places around the SCV including homes, commercial landscaping and even city areas? I know in other places I’ve lived, we had a little instrument that shut off the sprinklers. It is a wrench that operates the valve to turn the water on and off. It could also be a finger – yes, the finger that turns the sprinkler controls on and off. Please switch all sprinkler controls from the “ON” position to the “OFF” position. You won’t have to return them to the “ON” position for several days after the rain stops.

It was fun watching folks in the rain Tuesday. I am convinced that an umbrella, and how to operate it, is something a Southern Californian may never master. And why did the man, nearly 6-foot-6, have an umbrella made for a 5-year-old kid? Then there was the case of four people using a large umbrella like one would use at a patio table. Good thing there was little if any wind with the storm.

As for me, I was trained in umbrella use when I lived near Seattle. I think there was a required course I took at Seattle University. Practical use and deployment of an umbrella was also continued in Virginia and Kentucky. Now back home here in the SCV, I am prepared for a day like today except I can’t find my umbrellas. Not a one. I think I own three or four. Lost and gone in the same place socks go when they divorce from being a pair.

As many of you know, I drive a Jeep Wrangler. One good thing about the rain is that it got washed. If you don’t drive a Jeep, you can’t understand. I also like those puddles that form along the street. I don’t splash people on purpose, but sometimes I just can’t help switching the wipers to high speed and driving into the puddle. Water all over. Hitting it just right sends water completely over the Jeep, thus getting a washing for little cost.

When other parts of the country move into winter, all things are gray. Not here in the SCV and Southern California. Our hillsides start to turn green. The start of a brilliant display of all the shades of green that are to come as the rain continues.

This rain, and many more like it, won’t end our drought. We need snow in our mountains. Lots and lots of snow. So much that our lakes, rivers and reservoirs fill again. Maybe we can use Castaic Lake next year. Maybe.

One thing we can’t do is return to our old water-wasting ways. All of those great more natural landscapes that have been planted should remain. You know. Those low-water-using landscape designs that complement our high desert and don’t make the area look like a part of New England has escaped to our corner of the world. We like our cacti, yucca and various other plants that grow here naturally. Somehow all of those maples, eastern oaks and the like seem out of place in our little valley.

Drought-tolerant landscaping at the 14 Freeway ramps in Sand Canyon.

Drought-tolerant landscaping at the 14 Freeway ramps in Sand Canyon.

If you’ve ever been to Tucson, Ariz., you’ll also see that rocks and gravel can make great landscaping tools. That is one place where 40 tons of rock make a great looking front yard. Why not here? There is a place in the SCV where the city has accomplished some high-desert landscaping, and that is the “gateway” on- and off-ramps on the 14 at Sand Canyon. It really looks great.

I think today I’ll take a drive to Pico Canyon and Mentryville. I want to see how those bridges over the creek are doing. Been dry for so long, they might be just a little vulnerable. Also, the hill behind the 13-room Pico Cottage was cut back after the last mudslide in 2003. There is nothing to hold up the hillside. Just a clay overburden of the hill cut straight up from the level of the house foundation. Want to see how – or if – that made it through this heavy rain. A little worried about it.

That type of situation comes about because we forget it does rain around here. Before the 1962 fire in Pico Canyon, there was a period of heavy rain and even some snow. It was the rain that knocked out just about every bridge and culvert in the canyon above the house in Mentryville. We lost some calves because the creek was flowing too fast to cross, even in our bulldozer. The calves were in the Wolcott barn that was lost in the fire later that year.

Pico Canyon/Mentryville in the Great Flood of 1938.

Pico Canyon/Mentryville in the Great Flood of 1938.

I really wonder how the bridges, culverts and road improvements are handling all of this rain. If things are true to form, old Mother Nature will once again prove that the topography and geology of Pico is stronger than what man can put up against it. I hope for the best, but in Pico, I never bet against nature. It seems it is always the winner there.

I do hope this is just the beginning of the rain we need so much. If this is all we’re going to get, we had better stop the High Speed Rail Boondoggle and concentrate on getting desalinated water from the sea.

Makes sense to me, but then again I’m not an expert on railways. I sure do know about making fresh water from the ocean. The Navy does it every day. In case you didn’t know, all of those prisoners at that base we have in Cuba, and the troops and other folks there, get all of their fresh water from the sea. Been that way since the early 1960s.

Why can’t we do the same here in California?



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. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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