Homeowners in upper Bouquet Canyon are being told all fish will be removed from Bouquet Creek, which will then be restocked with an endangered species.
Jeffrey Vail, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor, sent a letter to Bouquet Canyon homeowners explaining that “partially armored threespine stickleback, hybridized threespine stickleback and unarmored threespine stickleback” will be removed from Bouquet Creek.
“Following their removal,” Vail’s letter states, “we will then re-establish pure-strain unarmored threespine stickleback in Bouquet Creek in the Angeles National Forest.”
The unarmored variety of the one-inch-long threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni, was discovered as a separate species in 1853 and was listed as a federally endangered in 1970. It’s indigenous to the Santa Clarita Valley and has been on the list longer than any other local organism.
Some Santa Clarita Valley residents have been voicing concerns over road and water problems in Bouquet Canyon, and even though federal officials say the creek is home to an endangered species of fish, some locals don’t believe they live there.
Bouquet Creek in wetter times.
But according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, Bouquet Creek is a likely habitat for the endangered fish.
“As for the stickleback in Bouquet Canyon, we have determined that unarmored threespine stickleback have introgressed with the partially-armored threespine,” said Chris Dellith, a senior biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Earlier this year, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, introduced AB 353 to permit the removal of wildlife from Bouquet Creek to restore water flow. Gov. Jerry Brown ultimately signed the bill into law.
“Lackey introduced Assembly Bill 353 as a solution helping provide the clearance needed to allow the Los Angeles County Public Works Department to begin creek restoration,” according to George Andrews, the assemblyman’s chief of staff.
The creek is prone to overflowing because of built-up silt that gathers in the creek bed, which is now partially level with Bouquet Canyon Road.
Fish present in creek
Bouquet Creek has been filling with silt since 2005 when flooding drenched the valley. When water is let out of the Bouquet Reservoir to fill the creek and residents’ wells, the road floods, causing unsafe conditions for motorists.
Prior to 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated the presence of the unarmored threespine stickleback in Bouquet Creek. A report on the study reads in part:
“Based on surveys conducted by San Marino Environmental Associates in 1998, 2000 through 2003, and 2005, during periods of adequate surface flow, (unarmored threespine stickleback, known as the UTS) were abundant in Bouquet Creek and successfully reproduced in this stream reach. Even under the most adverse drought conditions, a refugium in the upper stream maintains a large population of UTS, which recolonize the downstream reach when conditions improve.”
Silt buildup in Bouquet Creek during recent years when the federal government wouldn’t allow it to be cleared out – in order not to disturb the fish – created problems for many local residents and nonprofit agencies in the canyon.
LARC Ranch, which provides homes and care for disabled adults, has been trucking in water from an external source to maintain the water supply, but not without added costs of about $2.5 million, according to Executive Director Kathleen Sturkey.
Lombardi Ranch, a family-owned farm, announced it will be closed indefinitely due to lack of access to reservoir water.
Adria Lombardi Faulconer, who runs the ranch with her nephew, is concerned about going out of business.
“It’s really hard to put it out there that we are closing,” Faulconer said in a previous story. “Hopefully, we are not closing for good.”
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