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
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.
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
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,”
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.