By Steve Scauzillo, November 15, 2013
In this Dec. 30, 2004 photo, the spillway at Devil’s Gate Dam in the
Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena flows with water from the latest
Project manager Keith Lilley speaks of Devils Gate Sediment Removal
project with slides of 2009 Station Fire Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in
About 75 residents of Pasadena, Altadena and La Canada Flintridge —
uneasy about the effects of a massive dredging project behind Devil’s
Gate Dam in Hahamongna Watershed Park — added a new concern to their
list during Thursday’s community meeting.
Many booed and groaned
when representatives from Katherine Padilla & Associates or KPA, a
public relations firm hired by the Los Angeles County Department of
Public Works to run the meeting, told those at Jackson Elementary School
in Altadena that they should write down their comments instead of
speaking them aloud.
Some felt the system of flip charts, mini-group sessions and
questions re-interpreted by county and public relations representatives
masked their feelings about the project. Worse, others felt the system
was designed to tamp down opposition.
“They don’t want us to co-educate each other,” said Lori Paul, a
biologist and Altadena resident opposed to the project. “They are trying
to create the illusion of consensus.”
When KPA’s Senior Associate
Sam Gennawey tried to reassure the audience after initially cutting off
questions. “The meeting is designed to listen to you,” Gennawey said to
groans from the audience. “Other meetings will try to sell you
something. We are a bit different,” he said, drawing laughter.
After the group sessions, the larger meeting reconvened and
Gennawey roamed the room with microphone in hand. Many asked questions
about the project itself, saying the numbers of cubic yards of sediment
to be removed grew from 1.6 million in 2011, to 2.9 million and as
much as 4 million. Some said the shifting numbers “did not engender
trust” with the county or its consultants.
When Pasadena resident
Dianne Patrizzi asked if the area was an Indian burial ground, and if
so, did the Environmental Impact Report study this, Gennawey asked the
other experts: “Is there a poltergeist in the project?”
Those in the auditorium were indignant, saying he was making a
mockery of their questions. “I apologize if my comment was flippant,”
Gennawey told the audience.
Environmental consultant Brian Mooney
with the Chambers Group, hired by the county in 2011 to prepare the
Environmental Impact Report, responded: “We checked with the tribes.
There was no identification of a sacred site by the Indian tribes.”
However, Mooney added that the Gabrielino Indians, the native peoples
who once inhabited the Hahamongna Park area, are not recognized by the
United States government as an official tribe.
The county used this method for its first meeting on the project held
Nov. 6 at the Rose Bowl and was successful, said Kerjon Lee, county
DPW spokesman who also attended the meeting but did not speak. He said
they may adjust the format for today’s public meeting from 2 to 4 p.m.
at the La Canada Flintridge Community Center, 4469 Chevy Chase Drive,
La Canada Flintridge.
The $70 million project calls for dredging
2.9 million cubic yards of sediment or more, depending on future storms
and debris flows, from Hahamongna. Four million cubic yards at maximum
weight per cubic yard would equal 8.64 billion pounds of sediment.
Dirt, debris and existing trees and shrubs will be scraped by
bulldozers and loaded onto double dump trucks and taken to old mining
pits in Irwindale via Oak Grove Avenue and the 210 Freeway, according to
This amounts to 50 trucks per hour, six days a week,
roughly between April 15 and Dec. 15 for five years, confirmed project
managers and consultants.
Some in the audience called the number
of trucks “intolerable” and wanted the county to reduce that impact.
Many suggested removing sediment at a much slower pace over a longer
period of time. This would reduce the frequency of trucks on local
streets and freeways.
Other criticized the county for considering this project an
emergency caused by 1.6 million cubic yards of sediment that settled
behind the dam from winter storms occurring after the 2009 Station Fire.
clearing out the sediment that extends well into Hahamongna Park as a
vegetative, riparian habitat, the dam can’t function at full capacity,
said Keith Lilley, project manager. This increases the risk of flooding
on local streets, the 210 Freeway and homes in Pasadena located south
of the dam along the Arroyo Seco.
“Their deferred maintenance doesn’t make this an emergency,” said Tim
Brick, Pasadena resident and former president of the Metropolitan Water
District board of directors. “They need to go slow. Take 20 years to do
this. There’s no reason to destroy 100 acres of riparian vegetation to
use for parking trucks.”
Others in the audience liked the EIR’s
third alternative, to leave a small portion of the habitat untouched but
clear out the rest. Later, some areas could be re-vegetated in about 15
years, Lilley said.
“I am amazed that (county) Flood Control would make that kind of
concession to address local concerns,” said Bob Hayward of Altadena.
Paul said the so-called environmentally superior alternative won’t make
much difference. The land used by Pasadena Audubon and school groups to
observe quail, snakes and the endangered least bell’s vireo will be
“You are going to turn this into a moonscape,” Paul said. “It will be most useful for JPL to test rovers for Mars.”
Chambers Group will collect written comments and incorporate them into a
final EIR. Dredging must be approved by the Board of Supervisors and
could begin in 2015 and last until 2020.
Emailed comments can be sent to: email@example.com. To view the EIR online, go to www.LASedimentManagement.com/DevilsGate.