Quarterly meeting reveals One Arroyo plans, and prospects for local trout
Published : Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | 5:24 AM
Los Angeles County is still a long way from mitigating the long-term risks to Hahamongna Watershed Park from a sediment removal project behind the Devil’s Gate Dam, in the opinion of Arroyo Seco Foundation Managing Director Tim Brick, who addressed the quarterly meeting of the Arroyo Seco Foundation Tuesday evening at the Pasadena Central Library.
The project, known as the “Big Dig,” was halted in March after members of the Arroyo Seco Foundation brought a lawsuit against the the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in 2016, when the District sought approval to dig out up to 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam to remove a threat that heavy rainstorms could inundate the dam and flood homes along the Arroyo Seco Channel.
In the lawsuit’s outcome ruling, Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant found that the project’s Final Environmental Impact Report “lack(ed) substantial evidence to support (the) conclusion that mitigation would be effective, and that the district will have to newly analyze any proposed habitat mitigation and perform a feasibility analysis for the use of model year 2010 or later trucks. Until this is done, the FEIR must be set aside.”
Judge Chalfant also noted that the first phase of the project involves sediment removal, and that would “immediately impact emission controls on hauling trucks and excavation and removal of sensitive habitat, the subject of the mitigation inadequacies found by the court.”
The ruling essentially halted all aspects of the project for now, from permits to actual work.
Last night, Brick reported that the County Flood Control District presented its new mitigation revisions on July 24, for a comment period which ended September 18.
“Many of you wrote comments to the board, regarding those revisions,” Brick told the group. “I thought (the revisions) were very inadequate in many ways. They still have never presented a real mitigation plan.”
“The Judge asked them to come back and prove that their one-to-one mitigation plan would be adequate,” Brick continued, “ but they didn’t really do that.”
According to Brick, the County Flood Control District cited an apartment project in Riverside which used one-to-one mitigation, and a project by Vulcan Materials, a large national mining company, which also used one-to-one mitigation.
“But these projects were not controversial,” said Brick, “and they weren’t challenged, they weren’t projects which threatened the habitat areas, and weren’t the same kinds of situations.”
The County Flood Control District is now reviewing comments from the community, and may adjust its response before re-submitting to the Board of Supervisors for consideration. If the Board of Supervisors issues its approval, the County will certify that the project fully complies with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regulations, and the project will continue.
“I think that’s a big question,” said Brick.
Brick seems hopeful that the lawsuit will still prevail, citing the current makeup of the County Supervisors.
“We have a real opportunity here, given that the County Board of Supervisors are much different than they were in 2014, when this project was last approved,” he said.
Brick cited new supervisor San Gabriel Valley Supervisor Hilda Solis, who he called “a champion of the kind of projects we represent.” Brick also noted “outstanding environmentalist” Sheila Kuehl, and Janice Hahn, who he said had “an impeccable environmental record.”
But Brick noted that the local supervisor often holds sway among the board in a decision that affects their district.
He said that Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the Hahamongna, told him recently, following a two-hour hike through the area, with Brick and her own staffers, that she would “go to the Flood Control District and talk to them and try to get them to moderate the worst aspects of the program.”
On another front, the Foundation’s Arroyo Advisory Group liaison member Tom Seifert delivered a presentation on the One Arroyo project, an effort created in January to prioritize projects in the Arroyo Seco and create a unifying overall vision for the park’s sustainability.
Seifert reported the Arroyo Advisory Group’s Projects and Priorities Committee is currently identifying projects to recommend to the City Council. Among those projects are trail maintenance, developing plans for tree preservation, habitat, and native plant restoration; restoring, preserving, or rehabilitating various structures; recognizing Native American history, and improving permeability in parking and other hardscape areas. Final recommendations will then be presented to City Council for approval.
Seifert also assured the membership that the Foundation is working closely with One Arroyo and emphasized that the Foundation has no plans to interfere with the group’s master plan, and that they are also working closely with other local groups.
“We want to make sure we have equitable input from all,” he said. Seifert added that the advisory group doesn’t want to “impact the residents and start charging for everything. It should be an equitable resource for all.”
Seifert added the One Arroyo group has no interest in following “the Rose Bowl model, with signs on everything.”
Along with the Big Dig Lawsuit and One Arroyo presentation, Ryan Dal Ponte, a student at Sequoyah School, and RJ Sakai, the High School’s Director of Social Innovation, presented “In the Hahamongna,” a 12-minute student-produced film on the Devil’s Gate controversy.
Students presented an outline of the existing situation and need for sediment removal, and then presented that before other students for discussion. Most remarkable about the film was that, as part of the film, students created a scale model of the Hahamongna/Devil’s Gate area and topography, which they then used to vividly illustrate the effects of various storms and rainfall amounts on the sediment in the Devil’s Gate Dam.
Finally, father and son team Brian and Patrick Jackson presented a short report on the fish conditions in Bear Canyon, high above the Arroyo area.
According to their presentation, conditions are good for the presence of trout in the creek and ponds along a six-mile round-trip route through the canyon. They saw no actual fish, but were confident that the current conditions meant there are likely fish in the waters.
Patrick also noted that they did also spot bear droppings in the canyon, confirming the active presence of bears.