Final environmental report approved for Devil’s Gate Reservoir Sediment Removal Project
|November 13, 2014 - The LA County Board of Supervisors approved the Flood Control Districts devastating plan to scrape 2.4 million cubic yards of sand and sediment out of the the Devil's Gate Basin in Hahamongna Watershed Park.|
The Devil’s Gate reservoir basin, including the Devil’s Gate Dam and Hahamongna Watershed Natural Park, in a 2009 photo. Staff file photo
LOS ANGELES >> The final environmental impact report for the controversial Devil’s Gate Reservoir Sediment Removal Project was approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
With the 4-1 vote, the board approved the removal of 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment over the next three to five years. Officials said the plan is necessary to ensure the safety of communities living downstream from the Devil’s Gate Dam, even if it means some impacts on local communities. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was the lone dissenting vote.
“It obviously wasn’t the greatest situation. We are here because there was deferred maintenance in the dam for years and the (Department of Public Works) let it get to a point where we had to move on a very, very large project, I think a project that was larger than we wanted and that was larger that public works wanted and project that is going to have impacts,” said Edel Vizcarra, planning and land use deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich. “But we are here, the dam is full and we need to get it cleaned out before we get a major storm.”
The proposal has stirred controversy in the Pasadena community, with many arguing that the aggressive sediment removal program will be detrimental to the neighborhoods around the dam and the surrounding natural treasure of Hahamongna Watershed Park. A special working group convened by the Pasadena City Council recommended that 1.1 million cubic yards would be a sufficient level of removal that would also reduce impacts.
Many residents, along with Mayor Bill Bogaard, turned out to the meeting to express concern and ask that the board not certify the final EIR.
“Needless to say, the city of Pasadena supports the sediment removal project in concept and we appreciate the open communication the county has maintained in regard to Pasadena’s questions and concerns,” Bogaard said. “Having stated that I ask that the record be clear that Pasadena has serious reservations about certain provisions of this project. We believe the volume of sediment to be removed for the project and the volume permitted to be removed in any given year are both excessive.”
Some questioned what was the basis for the capacity the County Flood Control District said needs to be maintained in the reservoir for community safety. Yaroslavsky echoed those concerns.
“If I was sitting in their shoes, I would be asking myself on what do you base your recommendation? What are the odds that if you went with the Pasadena alternative that you would have some sort of overflow disaster?” Yaroslavsky said. “I think that is a legitimate question with the price they are going to pay for the alternative. It is going to affect their quality of life for several years.”
Vizcarra said it wasn’t worth the risk to lower the standard that the county has had for space in every dam for decades.
“It’s one of those things, do you really want to roll the dice on something like this?” Vizcarra said.
The plan approved by the supervisors was the least aggressive plan studied in the EIR and allows up to 800,000 cubic yards to be removed each year by up to 400 truck trips a day. Hauling is limited to April to October on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Trucks will not be allowed to go near schools during peak hours and cannot haul sediment on holidays or Rose Bowl event days.
To prevent a future project on this scale, the county plans to conduct annual maintenance in a portion of the reservoir.
Vizcarra said the county has tried to find the best alternative under the circumstances.
“The department came to the Supervisor three years ago and tried to do this under an emergency basis and he said, ‘No,’ he made them do an EIR, something that we haven’t done for a dam clean-out ever,” Vizcarra said. “You have a better project now than when this first came to us.”
Construction on the project will likely begin in 2016. For more information, visit http://dpw.lacounty.gov/lacfcd/sediment/prj.aspx?prj=1.
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