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Arroyo Seco Foundation

News of the Arroyo


"Big Dig" Lawsuit Moves Close to Trial


Arroyo Seco Foundation, Audobon Society, plan community meeting to discuss lawsuit issues




<b>January 18, 2017</b> - The No Big Dig lawsuit filed by the Arroyo Seco Foundation and Pasadena Audubon more than two years ago is going to court on January 31. The lawsuit challenges the County Flood Control District's plan to scrape 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment out of Hahamongna Watershed Park.


Eddie Rivera, Community Editor



Representatives of the Pasadena Audubon Society shown at an anti-Big Dig press conference last summer.

More than two years have passed since the Arroyo Seco Foundation and Pasadena Audubon filed a lawsuit to halt the County Flood Control District’s program to truck out sediment from the Hahamongna Watershed Park, but now the suit is coming to trial January 31.

The Arroyo Seco Foundation will hold a meeting at 6:30 Wednesday evening, in the Donald Wright Auditorium of the Pasadena Central Library, to examine the impacts of the County’s plan—what the Foundation calls “The Big Dig”—and the issues involved in the lawsuit.

Arroyo Seco Foundation Executive Director Tim Brick as well as Mitchell Tsai, the Foundation’s attorney, will be making a presentation to the meeting, as well as presenting an update on the County’s proposed Eaton Canyon Pipeline, a ten-mile pipeline to be built across Altadena.

“That [Eaton Canyon] item was totally ignored in the County’s environmental impact report,” said Brick, “and we think it is critical to the County’s goals with regard to the sediment project as well as to Eaton Canyon.”

Brick will also discuss what he believes are errors in the County’s Environmental Impact Report, with regard to habitat.

“They missed 66 different species in their evaluation,” said Brick, citing an example.

The meeting will also discuss the county’s difficulties in obtain the permits necessary to proceed, the effect on biology and habitat in the region’s wildlife corridor, and diesel pollution.

Brick also said that the Foundation is not opposed to the County clearing sediment from the Devil’s Gate area, but believes that “The county is taking out way more than is really necessary.”

According to a County statement issued back in November, about 3,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed over the span of four weeks, a measure similar to previous projects on the basin completed in the summer/fall of 2015.

Keith Lilley, the Senior Civil Engineer at the Water Resources Division of L.A. County Public Works, said the removal is simply a yearly touch up and does not signal the start of the so-called “Big Dig” project — which is a plan to excavate 2.4 million cubic yards for flood management purposes, a plan that has been met with resistance from local activists.

Lilley explained at a community meeting back in July that the LA County Flood Control District was created in 1915 after a disastrous LA-area flood took a heavy toll on lives and property.

“The mission of the District is to reduce flood risk by providing flood control protection and to conserve water for regional supply,” he said.
Also, following the 2009 Station Fire, said Lilley, 1.3 million cubic yards of additional sediment entered Devil’s Gate Reservoir, and now the reservoir does not have adequate capacity for a major storm event, or what he termed a “50-Year Storm” event. Should such a storm occur, LA County Public Works estimates that flooding would occur along the portions of the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Los Angeles, impacting approximately 650 parcels and requiring closure of the 110 Freeway from Orange Grove Avenue to the 5 Freeway.
Local activists were not convinced, however, that the project was necessary, or that it would not harm or eliminate local species. Residents of the area were concerned about the multi-year project’s impact on the local animal and plant habitat—especially birds—as well as the impact of trucks and traffic on the nearby community.
“Mother Nature has been in quality control and product development for millions of years longer than we have,” said biologist Lori Paul, a local resident who is opposed to the project. “We’re paying millions of dollars to take out accumulated sediment here, when we are also paying millions of dollars to truck in sediment down at our beaches… This is absurd. The system of the mountains is supposed to work by bringing sediments down and sluicing them in various sizes to form stream sites and riparian habitats all the way down to the beach.”

The multi-year plan would eliminate certain native habitat areas, but replace and rejuvenate them by removing non-native plants that are already clogging and affecting the natural areas around the dam, and re-growing native plant species, said Lilley.

“Every year, we remove what comes and settles in front the valves,” Lilley said. “We do that to keep the valves clear. What you’re seeing is annual minor maintenance before this storm season.”

But, said Laura Garrett, the Audubon Society’s chair, “The county has also applied for an incidental take permit on the Least Bell’s Vireo, a federally protected and endangered bird. We now don’t understand why they need to take out 2.4 million cubic yards of dirt when before 1.67 million cubic yards of dirt was fine,”




Arroyo Seco Foundation, PO Box 91622, Pasadena, CA 91109-1622 (323) 405-7326