Disagreement Continues Over Sediment Removal at Devil’s Gate Dam

By Alessandra LUCKEY, intern

Over 50 people attended a public meeting at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge on Saturday afternoon to hear the plans for the sediment removal planned at the Devil’s Gate Dam and to have their questions answered.

The Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD) is currently planning a sediment removal and rehabilitation project at the Devil’s Gate Dam that will take three to five years and will remove material from a 69-acre area to restore the flood control capacity, said Keith Lilley, a senior civil engineer at the Water Resources Division of Los Angeles County Public Works.

In order to remove the planned 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment, trucks will have to enter the facility at a maximum of 50 times per hour which would add up to 400 times a day.

The time and immense area that the LACFCD will need to accomplish the project is one of the complaints from the members of the Arroyo Seco Foundation who attended the meeting.

“We think they could remove half as much as they are talking about and they would have a safe level,” Tim Brick, a managing director at the Arroyo Seco Foundation, said.

Brick stated that the foundation presented numerous suggestions as part of the Environmental Impact Report process but no one listened. Instead of the project getting smaller, it increased in size.

Other worries that attendees voiced are the traffic and pollution the trucks will create.

The first regulation the LACFCD has implemented is that construction will only occur from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and there will be no hauling on holidays or on days of Rose Bowl events. The trucks will also be prohibited from waiting on city streets.

Another precaution that was agreed to is the use of low emission trucks that have covered beds. These trucks will pollute less and the materials being transported won’t fall out onto the road or go into the air.

Lilley also stated that if citizens see anything occurring that is not allowed or if they have questions, there will always be an inspector on-site and phone numbers posted so that people can contact the inspector with concerns.

The Arroyo Seco Foundation also wants to insure that habitats are restored and that there will be diverse wildlife, but members said they believe the county will not fulfill this wish.

“They are basically going to dig up the core of it and temporarily destroy 75 acres of habitat but permanently destroy 50 acres,” Bricks said

But during this meeting, Lilley said that they want to increase the diversity and quality of the habitats and will be restoring and enhancing 70 acres of the native habitat.

In order to try and protect the habitat while construction is occurring, the LACFCD will have a biologist on site. If construction workers see any animals, they can consult the biologist and construct buffer zones around sensitive habitats.

Mari Quillman, the principal Biological Resources Program manager at ECORP Consulting Inc., has 27 years of experience as a biologist and was brought on to help with the process of rehabilitating the area.

“The plan is to design and restore the habitat and bring more wildlife diversity,” Quillman said. “The focus is really to create nesting habitat for the vireos.”

Vireos are endangered birds that used to be nesting in this area, but have recently disappeared from the dam. Back in April, Quillman saw two vireos, a female and male, but 10 days later the female left and shortly the male followed. No vireos have been seen since, which means that the area is not suitable for nesting.

The LACFCD currently has an Incidental Take Permit to protect the vireos and a Stream and Alteration Agreement to protect the other sensitive species in the construction zone.

The main way they are going to restore the area is to remove non-native plants and replace them with native plants. It is expected that the increase of native plants will draw in more animals.

“After they get the non-native plants under control, in some areas we will install irrigation and then we start installing native plant containers,” Quillman said.

However, she warned that the area will look like a “moonscape” at first, because all of the non-native plants must be removed. The area has to be watched for a number of years afterwards to keep the plants from coming back and invading, Quillman said.

To avoid years of barren landscape, the county is planning on starting the restoration concurrently with the construction.

The members of the Arroyo Seco Foundation were not only protesting the proposals for the sediment removal by attending and asking questions at the open meetings regarding the plans for the project, but also by filing lawsuits.

“In December 2014, we filed a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Impact Report. So we are in court and have a court date next January,” Brick said. “We are working at this point on the regulatory permits.”

Anyone who would like to learn more about the County of Los Angeles’ plans for the sediment removal can go to http://www.lasedimentmanagement.com/devilsgate. To read more about what the Arroyo Seco Foundation is doing and to get involved with the organization, visit http://www.arroyoseco.org.