To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Activists: We Were Railroaded at Devil’s Gate Public Review


By Rachel Young, November 8, 2013

Community members and environmentalists at the first public review meeting for the Devil’s Gate Reservoir Sediment Removal project said the Los Angeles County Public Works meeting Wednesday was tightly controlled and of little use.

“They billed it as a community meeting [but] they seem to be tightly controlling the agenda to ensure that the community doesn’t really get to voice their oppositions publicly until everyone’s leaving. It’s of limited value,” Managing Director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation Tim Brick said.

Christle Balvin was also displeased with the agenda, “When you do a lot of activist work, you can sense when you’re getting railroaded; this is not a good process.”

The Flood Control District of the County of Los Angeles Public Works Department conducted the first of three public reviews of the recently completed draft of the Environmental Impact Report for the Devil’s Gate Reservoir Sediment Removal and Management Project in an unusual format, raising the ire of some members of the public at the meeting.

The format started with an open house allowing attendees to become familiar with the proposed alternatives in a one-on-one format. An engineer and Chambers Group staff was at each of the six stations to explain the project.

An introduction of the project was given next, followed by more time in the open house, allowing for written comments and at the very end the staff summarized the public comments  heard at the six stations and allowed for added questions by the public.

“This is what we thought might be a way of constructively drawing out comments from the public… some people don’t want to sit through and hear others speak, some people are afraid to get up and speak in front of a large audience,” County of Los Angeles Public Affairs Manager Kerjon Lee said.
Some present disagreed with the process.

“Dialogue can’t be one sided with them presenting their point of view and us being reduced to pieces of paper in a box,” Brick said.

“The issue really of public comments is do they raise a new significant issue that we didn’t know about? If that’s the case then we have to go back and really rethink,” Director of Environmental and Urban Planning for the Chambers Group Brian Mooney said.

Public Works staff assured the gathering that every comment, both written and spoken, will be included in the final Environmental Impact Report with an answer to every comment or concern.
The proposed project will remove the estimated 2.9 million cubic yards of sediments from Devil’s Gate Reservoir to restore capacity, to protect the dam and its valves and to reduce the risk of flooding in the communities located downstream.

The public review of the draft assesses the impacts of removing sediments from within the reservoir, including its significant effects to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, land use/planning, noise, and transportation/traffic. While many of the impacts can be mitigated, Principal Engineer Keith Lilley said aesthetics, air quality and transportation and traffic have significant and unavoidable impacts.

Community members at the meeting voiced many concerns, but the most prominent concern is the trucks. During the six months of the dry season, up to 50 trucks per hour, or one truck per minute for up to 12 hours per day will drive into the Hahumonga Watershed Park, scrape the sediment, and then merge onto the freeway at the most congested point of the 210 where it narrows to two lanes.

“Regarding the tunnels, you’re going to get a lot of backup, there’s already traffic everyday and you’re going to be adding 50 trucks per hour. How are you going to address that given the tunnel cannot be widened?” one community member asked.

John West, another community member suggested Flood Control District take this time to work together with Caltrans to widen the 210 freeway at that point.

“What’s happened there, its like having a major freeway accident every minute of every day forever. Flood control district should take the initiative, talk to Caltrans, tell them we need to widen this freeway at this point. You would not only solve the daily traffic crisis unrelated to this project, but you would also address the convergence of a traffic catastrophe that’s going to happen,” West said.
Several are also concerned with the air quality control and the actual damage to the habitat.

“This is a beautiful natural resource, not just a flood control facility. The county just seems to be following business as usual, the same old way of doing things. We know the sediment needs to be moved from the basin, but they need to develop a way that works better with nature in order to protect the habitat there and the recreational uses,” Brick said.

According to the Arroyo Seco Foundation website, the Hahamongna contains five unique habitat zones that only exist in alluvial canyons near the mountains. Most sites like this in Southern California have been destroyed.

Since the initial plan to scrape out the entire 120 acres, the Flood Control District developed alternatives that the public could view at the meeting. The most environmentally superior alternative is ‘Alternative 3’ which suggests leaving an untouched island and scraping the sediment around that island and then replanting a large portion of the reservoir while leaving a clear stream for the water that will be under continual management.

“I’ve read about 400 pages of this document and it is so obscure. I think a lot of it is designed to make you not understand. The alternatives are very confusing, even if you are trying to make a good faith of which one to support, there’s not enough details or analysis,” Mary Barrie said who has been following these issues for 14 years.

The sediment removal activities are expected to begin in Summer 2015 and will last for a five-year period. Reservoir management is set to start after 2020 to reduce buildup of sediment in the management area and to eliminate or substantially reduce the occurrence of another large‐scale sediment removal project in the future.

“I don’t think anybody disagrees with the need to remove sediment, that’s a given. What were disagreeing with is the amount, the extent of the dig out and the way its going to be removed,”
Christle Balvin said. “In earlier meetings the public comment was they could sluice the sediment down the river and then have a pickup point like by the cornfields, where they could scoop it up and take it to the beaches or pits. Our beaches are being eroded because they’re not getting the sediment, we’re holding it up here. If we begin to let it flow, this is the natural process and that comment seems to have been totally ignored.”

The public comment will remain open until January 6, 2014. At that time the Final Environmental Impact Report will be written and then brought back to the public in a final meeting to report on how each answered every comment and what alternative  are recommended to the board of supervisors. Comments at that meeting are not required to be recorded in the final report.

Hardcopies of the DEIR are available for public review during regular business hours at the locations listed below:

Linda Vista Library, 1281 Bryant Street, Pasadena; Pasadena Central Library, 285 East Walnut Street, Pasadena; San Rafael Branch Library, 1240 Nithsdale Road, Pasadena; Altadena Library District, 600 East Mariposa Street, Altadena; Bob Lucas Memorial Library, 2659 Lincoln Avenue, Altadena; La Cañada Flintridge Library, 4545 North Oakwood Avenue, La Cañada Flintridge.

The Draft of the Environmental Impact report can also be viewed online at http://www.LASedimentManagement.com/DevilsGate

Two more public meetings will be held where the project will be presented and the public can submit comments.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Jackson Elementary School Auditorium 593 West Woodbury Road Altadena (Park in rear lot or on Spaulding).

Saturday, November 16, 2013 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge 4469 Chevy Chase Drive La Cañada Flintridge (Park in Center/Pre‐School Lot).

For more information visit www.lasedimentmangaement.com/devilsgate or send an email to reeservoircleanouts@dpw.lacounty.gov.