Cleaning out the basins

Photo by Leonard COUTIN Though storms seem a long way off, L.A. County Public Works is already preparing the basins for the next wet season. Those like Pickens Debris Basin, above, are having their capacity enlarged.


In an effort to capture more debris from upcoming storms, Los Angeles County Public Works is expanding the capacity of six local debris basins.
“Last season’s storms are behind us and next season’s rains seem so far away on such a beautiful summer’s day,” said Gail Faber, director of public works at a press conference Monday morning. “This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that storm season preparation is a year-round function for Los Angeles County Public Works and the Flood Control District.”
Faber along with L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Crescenta Valley Town Council President Cheryl Davis and La Cañada Mayor Donald Voss conducted a press conference at the public works yard overlooking Pickens Canyon debris basin at the top of Rosemont Avenue in La Crescenta.
The $1.2 million project will increase the capacity of the six basins by a total of 68,000 cubic yards. Enlargements include increasing height of spillways, outlets towers and retaining walls. The project that has already begun is expected to be completed in 60 days.
Faber explained that these six basins were identified as the most vulnerable and those in need of this type of expansion.
The basins that are part of the project are: Pickens that will have its capacity increased from 125,000 cubic yards to 156,000; Big Briar from 2,600 cubic yards to 4,800; Pinelawn from 3,200 to 4,800; Snover from 25,000 to 37,000; Starfall from 15,000 to 28,300; and Mullally from 9,400 to 17,500.
“The only major [flooding] incident we had was on Feb. 6 was when huge boulders blocked the inlet to Mullaly.  The six ton rock you see inside the public works yard is one of those boulders,” Antonovich said.
To give perspective, Antonovich added that the amount of debris that came down from the mountains during last winter’s rains was enough to fill the Rose Bowl.
“This [debris expansion] will provide at risk communities with an additional level of protection as we prepare for the next two years and beyond,” Antonovich said.
Before the Station Fire was contained public works employees were assessing the basins and preparing for the worst.
“Even as the 2009 wildfires continued to rage, the County moved swiftly to appropriate funding and provide public works with emergency authority to repair fire damage and prepare for winter storms,” Antonovich said.
To pay for the project public works will be taking advantage of the federal funding offered due to the area being designated a disaster.
“We are going for that funding,” Faber said.
Davis thanked Antonovich for the press conference and steady stream of communication between public works, his office and the council.
“During the fires and flood communication was key and I really thought we got that,” Davis said. “I learned during the last season that public works are first responders just like fire, sheriff and CHP [California Highway Patrol]. They make it so we can sleep at night.”
With the basin project already in progress the next challenge is to find a place to put all the debris.
“We will need to identify new and permanent placement for sediment collection that we can transport safely,” Antonovich said.
He added his office recently had a meeting with state, federal and regional delegates to discuss sediment placement.  The study resulting from that meeting will help officials implement a program in a timely manner, he said. COPY