Nature Advocates Call for Halt to Hahamongna Watershed Sediment Removal Project

Published : Wednesday, January 9, 2019 | 5:52 AM

Environmental activists are calling for a halt to Los Angeles County’s ongoing sediment removal project at Hahamongna Watershed Park, which they say is proving even more destructive to wildlife habitats than they had previously feared.

The Arroyo Seco Foundation plans to discuss the project and what recourse it may have during its quarterly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Donald Wright Auditorium of Pasadena Central Library, 285 E. Walnut Street, Foundation Managing Director Tim Brick said.

The group is also planning a rally at the work site at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“They’ve been very careless in their approach to their project. They’ve exceeded the footprint that they were supposed to in some areas,” Brick said.

“And for me, the most ominous part of it is that they’ve outlined the permanent destruction zone that they want to create there right in the stream zone so everyone can go up there and look from the freeway or look from the dam and see the area that the County wants to permanently denude every year, destroying all of the precious habitat there.”

Brick said while he knew there would be destruction of habitat when work on the project began, “It’s shocking to see.”

“They’ve done somewhere around 50 acres or more now. They’re going to do 70 and it’s shocking to see how large an area that is and how destructive they’ve been,” he said. “On the west Altadena drain, which is down by the dam, they’ve taken out a very important patch of riparian habitat and oak trees even, which they were not supposed to.”

The Arroyo Seco Foundation has taken their opposition to court. They are in the process of appealing one decision in the County’s favor, and recently filed a second lawsuit challenging the project.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works spokesman Dan Lafferty has said the County has worked hard to mitigate environmental concerns, but the work has to be done to help reduce the threat of neighborhoods being flooded downstream.

“We’ve gone through several iterations in terms of project footprint and scope and attempting to satisfy all the different concerns out there,” he said last month. “At the end of the day with a project of this magnitude, certainly there’s folks that don’t feel as if they’ve gotten everything that they were looking for, but we’re moving forward.”

The project includes setting aside and enhancing 70 acres of natural habitat, he said.

Opponents of the project said they understand the need for debris removal, but the current project is too extreme.

“This has really come down to something happening so big and so fast,” Altadena Town Councilwoman Dorothy Wong said. And community opposition to the work is strong, she said.

“I helped start a petition that now has close to 6,000 people, as well as La Cañada High School,” Wong said.

“This space is so precious because, if you spend time down there, you see that it’s alive. And what has happened now that is so disturbing is to see it like a war zone. You know, these trees that held life are gone,” Wong said.

In addition to the damage to the wildlife and vegetation, Wong said she was also concerned about the effects of countless truck trips associated with the project were having on local air quality.

Workers have built special access ramps to minimize the effects of traffic, noise and other issues associated with trucking out the debris on the neighboring community, Lafferty said.

Existing alternative fuel trucks, like compressed natural gas and propane, just aren’t powerful enough to get the job done, he said. But the project is using diesel trucks that exceed current environmental regulations.

Wong said she wants to see those trucks hit the brakes for the time being.

A time-out is in order, she said. “It would be really good for us to have a conversation before they just haul out the rest of those trees,” she said.