News of the Arroyo


Title:

Cleaning up an Arroyo mystery

Subtitle:

Date:

2005-04-06

Summary:

April 6, 2005 - The mysterious concrete that has littered the Arroyo Seco beneathe 210 Freeway bridge is being removed by a Pasadena restoration project.

Author:

Gary Scott, Staff Writer

Publication:

Pasadena Star News

Content:

Tuesday, April 05, 2005 - PASADENA -- It may sound strange, but no one is quite sure how three 150-ton slabs of concrete came to rest under the freeway bridge just south of Devil's Gate Dam.

A leading theory is they are remnants of the Oct. 17, 1972, bridge collapse that left six men dead and another 21 injured. But the slabs do not appear in photographs from that day.

More than one person mentioned a landing strip for extraterrestrials, due to the slabs' proximity to JPL.

To the workers hired to haul the concrete out, one bucket load at a time, the slabs look like footings used to secure construction scaffolds.

Probably they were poured to ensure a safer project when the Foothill (210) Freeway overpass was rebuilt, said Greg Calvillos of ScapeLanders, the Covina landscaping company hired to do the restoration work.

One thing is for sure, no one is going to miss them though the fact that they sat for more than three decades tripping up man and horse alike may cause one to wonder.

"They're slippery. They're dangerous. They've got to go,' said Timothy Brick, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation. He stopped by Tuesday to check on the project.

"I think the slabs came in after the freeway accident some half-hearted attempt to do erosion control,' Brick said. He has been an ardent advocate for restoration of the entire Arroyo Seco channel. "There is so much concrete in here that doesn't belong.'

To hikers and horseback riders, the slabs sat as obstacles. To naturalists, they were an eyesore. To environmentalists, they were one more foreign object fouling the city's greatest natural resource.

Not only that, but the "monstrous slabs' were hastening erosion along one of the few stretches of stream that is not reined in by concrete, said Lynn Dwyer, the landscape architect hired to oversee the streambed restoration project.

Dwyer and city parks supervisor Rosa Laveaga spent more than two years convincing engineers from Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers that the slabs were doing more harm than good. Once they got the green light to remove them, the next step was finding the money.

In September 2003, the city secured a $1 million grant through a state watershed protection bond to be used for various restoration efforts. A portion, about $275,000, was earmarked toward the slabs.

Finally, and perhaps the most difficult step, was getting the Arroyo Seco Master Plan approved.

The Central Arroyo is now echoing with the sounds of jackhammers. A crew of seven men from ScapeLanders has been running four tractors to break up the concrete and haul it out.

The men have a shortened timeline to complete the work since the county had to shut down Devil's Gate Dam to give them access to the site. The water level is slowly rising.

"We started last Friday and they want us to be done by this Friday,' Calvillos said. As of Tuesday, most of one slab and part of another had been trucked away.

Laveaga, who shepherded the Arroyo Seco plan through the approval process, is now charged with ensuring the projects contained within it are completed. Due to the state's budget woes, funding has been tight.

The $1 million grant has been stretched to cover several restoration projects south of the dam, as well as under the Colorado Street B ridge. In all, 20 acres of habitat are set to be restored.

Much of the work has been to remove nonnative plants carob, palm, eucalyptus, periwinkle, stick eupatorium that have sneaked into the Arroyo over the years and choked off the native species.

Gary Scott can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4458, or by e-mail at gary.scott@sgvn.com .

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