Protestors turn out to voice opposition to changes at Devil’s Gate Dam.
By Jason KUROSU
A crowd could be seen gathering at Devil’s Gate Dam Saturday morning, initially clustered together to listen to speakers, then spread across the length of the dam hand-in-hand, shouting, “Save Hahamongna!”
Since it was announced that the county would be removing 2.9 million cubic yards of sediment from the Devil’s Gate Dam via dump trucks, the project has undergone scrutiny and criticism from local residents who fear that air quality, traffic and the surrounding wildlife will be adversely affected by the project.
The Dept. of Public Works and the L.A. County Flood Control District published the environmental impact report (EIR) in October. The EIR presents a series of options for removing sediment from the reservoir, though none of the available options will preclude the use of trucks to transport the sediment. Though the alternatives offer some variation as to the number of truck trips and the time period of the project’s operation, it is estimated that removing the sediment will require approximately 50 round trips per hour for 12 hours per day and 425 round trips per day for a period of three to five years, starting around summer 2015. The trucks would operate six months out of the year, halting the project during the storm season.
The project originated in response to the 2009 Station Fire, which triggered mudslides in areas affected by the fire. In order to avoid flood risks, authorities are hoping to prepare for a design debris event, the amount of sediment (2 million cubic yards) the county predicts would flow into the reservoir in the result of a major storm event. The current capacity of the dam is below the design debris event mark.
At a recent community meeting, Keith Lilley, a civil engineer with DPW, said that the reservoir currently has 1.3 million cubic yards of available capacity.
But those opposed to the project believe that authorities are overstating the likelihood of such a storm.
“They’ve handled this project as though we have two major floods per year,” said Christle Balvin, a Pasadena resident and a member of Friends of Hahamongna, a group dedicated to the preservation and protection of Hahamongna Watershed Park.
Balvin and others like her have argued for moving the sediment out with fewer trucks, thus lessening the impacts of the project.
Rody Stephenson is a La Cañada resident and the former director of JPL’s technology program. He thinks that the county has not properly justified the scope of the project.
Regarding the design debris event, Stephenson said, “They pulled this amount of sediment out of thin air.”
Like many opponents to the project, Stephenson argued that the Station Fire’s decimation of plant life has made a major flood event unlikely.
“They need to properly quantify the probability of a flood for us,” said Stephenson, who was among the protestors Saturday morning.
A table was available for making signs, many of which were displayed on the side of the dam. There was also a booth where protestors could write letters to Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky, airing their grievances over what they view as a major disruption in the area with health risks to boot.
As the protestors formed a line across the dam, making their voices heard for those walking or jogging past the other side of the caution tape rolled out for the protest, former state assemblymember Anthony Portantino started a chant of, “This dam is too damn big!”
The Dept. of Public Works will continue to take public comments on the findings of the environmental impact report until Jan. 6. Visit http://dpw.lacounty.gov/contact/ or call (626) 458-5100 for more information.