Sunday, December 5, 2010


The Hahamongna basin fills up with rain and silt every year. The Devil's Gate Dam has a job to do--keep all that stuff from flooding Pasadena, South Pasadena and beyond.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Water Resources Division Flood Control District (LACDoPWWRDFCD for short) has a job to do, too--keep the dam in working condition.

Well, the LACDoPWWRDFCD's been busy, you know? So many dams (14), so little time. The sediment behind the Devil's Gate Dam has been building for some time and could have continued to do so. But the 2009 Station Fire scorched the mountains so severely they couldn't retain their soil. In early 2010, along with ash and debris, it all came flowing into the basin by the ton. Actually, it came by the cubic yard--almost a million of 'em.

Last year was an average rain year. Another year like it will bring the dam near to "uncontrolled flow at the spillway," according to Ryan Butler of the LACDoPWWRDFCD. Last Tuesday, Butler and Ken Zimmer of the LACDoPWWRDFCD presented the Postfire Sediment Removal Project (PSRP) at a meeting of the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee (HWPAC).

Beginning in September of 2011, long after this coming winter's rain (which, you may recall, could bring the dam near to "uncontrolled flow" if it's an average year), the LACDoPWWRDFCD will first create a road into the basin from Oak Grove Drive near La Canada Flintridge High School. Then they'll remove 15 acres of native willow trees from the basin. By then they figure the rains will set in so there probably won't be much sediment removal next fall and they'll cease working until the spring of 2012.

Then (two rainy seasons from now, I guess we should pray for drought?) the emergency work begins in earnest. That will be 300-400 trucks per day, 7:30am-5pm Monday through Friday between May and December, hauling sediment out of the 50 acres closest to the dam to sites in Irwindale and Azusa. The job is expected to take 3 years at a projected cost of $35 million.

The "emergency" status of this project gives the LACDoPWWRDFCD a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption, meaning an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) isn't required (even though there's still more than a year to do it--but you know, so many EIRs, so little time). The LACDoPWWRDFCD still has to get permits from the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Each of these agencies may require some sort of mitigation, environmentally speaking.

More questions will be asked. The city of La Canada Flintridge will have to weigh in. Mary Barrie of Friends of Hahamongna wrote an excellent report about the LACDoPWWRDFCD presentation. Arroyo Seco Foundation Managing Director Tim Brick expressed, among other things, his belief that this should be an issue in our upcoming municipal elections.

The stuff's gotta go. But does it have to go like this? The outgoing chairperson of the HWPAC, Tim Wendler, asked if other plans were considered before this one was chosen. "There's not a lot of options," said the LACDoPWWRDFCD's Zimmer. He added, "Deferring clean-outs doesn't work." Seeing as the LACDoPWWRDFCD has been deferring clean-outs for some years now, I guess we could say we have proof that he's right. Zimmer had the second-best line of the evening when he said, "Believe it or not, this is the fast track of the county."

The best line of the evening came from HWPAC member Maria Isenberg: "Can we get rid of that nasty little soccer field?"

I will bring you good news about Hahamongna later this week, I promise.

Here's good news about the PDP/PPM Contest:
Steve Scauzillo of Temple City (Daily Photo) is this week's winner of the PDP/PPM books contest! Steve was among those who answered correctly, "Who were the original architects of Pasadena City Hall?" It was the San Francisco firm of Bakewell and Brown. I took this week's poo bag to the Pasadena Farmers' Market and asked the beautiful daughter of one of my favorite merchants to draw a name at random from the correct answers. Steve won a copy of the lovely book At Home Pasadena from Prospect Park Media.

UPDATE: here's the county's sediment removal project.


Bellis said...

All those dam acronyms are breaking my heart. We may have won the fight over one of the soccer pitches but we lost a battle we weren't even expecting - without being allowed to fight. There was always going to be sediment and tree removal in the basin, and a new road for the trucks to get in and out, but not to this extent - this barren pit will stretch as far north as the edge of Johnson Field.

Looking forward to your good news.

Petrea said...

I wonder if this one's lost yet, Bellis. Tim Brick doesn't seem to think so.

I see the need for excavation to be done. I'm just shocked at the invasive manner in which they plan to do it. The section they're taking out is coyote habitat. I guess the coyotes will go into the neighborhoods.

Susan Campisi said...

This is heartbreaking news. WTF is the perfect title. Is there anything we can do collectively to stop this madness?

On a happier note, Bellis, I love your new profile picture.

Petrea said...

I don't know, Susan. I don't have the expertise to know how much of it is madness and how much of it is necessity. But I think Tim Wendler's question has to be asked again and again until we get a more satisfactory answer.

Steve Scauzillo said...

I'd like to thank my family, my friends, my agent, and the academy of Community Daily Photo bloggers.... Thanks Petrea for the contest. Also, your photo and informational post on the sediment issue behind Devil's Gate is quite similar to what is going on behind Santa Anita Dam in Arcadia/Monrovia (my post for today,
Great minds...

Mister Earl said...

Congratulations, Steve. You are now a member of a very exclusive club.

Mister Earl said...

PS - I knew that Pasadena City Hall was designed by a San Francisco firm because of PIO Ann Erdman's wonderful tour of City Hall last year.

Petrea said...

Congratulations, Steve, and sorry to bury your story.

Interesting that it's the same body (LACDoPWWRDFCD) going about things so ham-handedly in the Santa Anita woodlands. I wonder if things have been left too long there as well.

Earl, you might like that article I linked to in Friday's post. I often use it as a reference.

altadenahiker said...

Sadly, or just realistically, I have no faith in any measures the city or the country takes when it comes to Haha. Some actions may be smart, but how can you sift through all the bad faith to get to any good stuff. I can't.

Trish said...

I'm rather dyslexic, so you sorta lost me at the acronym as I tried to figure out what letters went where and stood for what...there goes my mind wandering off...;-)

But, I'm wondering if something like the CCC or Youth Corps or something similar could get something like this done a) for cheaper than most housing tracts cost to build and b) less invasively?

And alternatively, is this somewhat paving the way to create a "perfect" space for the football pitches? (well, lookey, there, those look like NICE, FLAT, RECTANGLUAR fields! well, let's just put them up, since we're already at it with the machinery! I mean, wouldn't want to WASTE money by having to bring them back in to do more work...). sigh.

Petrea said...

I know, Hiker. Years of bad faith built up like so much silt behind a dam.

Trish, sorry I confused you. It is confusing! But the City is building the soccer field and the County is the one dredging out the silt--two different entities--and I honestly don't think the County knows or cares about soccer fields.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I recall that the plan presented at the (other) meeting was to use that excess sediment to build the birm/rise/foundation that was to support the soccer field as opposed to dumping it in a landfill. Kind of confusing.

Why do they have to call land rapers (movers) CAT. Poor creatures take all the hits.

Petrea said...

There was a brief discussion about using some of it for that purpose, PA, but they won't need more than a few truckloads, probably not even half a day's worth, for a soccer field. This job is going to be five days a week , 300-400 truckloads a day for three years.

Petrea said...

Here's a link to the county's sediment removal project: