The Meaning of Hahamongna

The original settlers of the region were sometimes called the Hahamongna Indians. The word means "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" in the native Tongva language.

Hahamongna News

Title:

Larry Wilson: Debris-basin politics slams foothills again

Subtitle:

Date:

2010-12-05

Author:

Larry Wilson

Publication:

Larry Wilson Blog - Pasadena Star-News

Content:

Debris basins - can't live without `em, can't blow them up with a strategically placed handful of Semtex.

Not that one would want want to, except when driven to some in extremist state by the heavy-handed way their operations are sometimes implemented, with the best of intentions, to control the potentially deadly and havoc-inducing flash floods that can come roaring down out of the mountains of Southern California.

But first it was the proposal to rip out hundreds of large, historic oaks in the foothills above Arcadia and Monrovia in order to dump sediment from one debris basin so that it can be readied for any big storms in the rainy season to come.

Now it's the proposal to remove 1.67 million cubic yards of rocks, dirt and, yes, trees from behind Devil's Gate Dam that has some locals hollering.

Late last month, the county's Department of Public Works gave a detailed presentation on the project to the Hahamongna Watershed Advisory Committee.

No one's disputing the need to move some fill. A year ago, the Station Fire burned out almost all the vegetation in the mountains above La Canada, Pasadena and Altadena upstream from the dam. In the rains that followed, almost a million cubic yards of muck flowed into the huge holding area north of Devil's Gate, raising the ground level by 15 feet.

If there were similar rains this year, and similar mud flow, another 15-foot rise would put the dam's holding ability at risk.

But get this: According to Hahamongna activist Mary Barrie, to excavate about 50 acres, including 15 acres of willow trees, would require filling between 300 and 400 truckloads of sediment per day Monday through Friday for three years at a cost of $35 million.

A new paved road would go into Hahamongna, and the dump trucks would go down Oak Grove Drive to the 210 Freeway. The fill would go to the Manning Sediment Placement Site in Irwindale and property owned by Azusa Land Reclamation.

Again, no one questions the need to take action - though you have to wonder about yet another proposal to get an exemption from filing environmental impact reports as required by CEQA. That's getting to be a habit: Declaring everything an emergency.

But many do question the need to take out all those native willows, in which much wildlife lives. The forest you now see when you drive on Woodbury Road over the dam would in future have a scorched-earth aspect. For the money that would be spent removing 15 acres of trees, couldn't the dam itself be modified, or other areas excavated? Doesn't a forest of trees in between the mountains and the dam act as some kind of appropriate natural barrier to a wall of muck heading down from the hills in a flood?

Arboreal note: Architectural historian Robert Winter has published a gorgeous chapbook, "The Greening of Pasadena," with Andre Chaves' Clinker Press. It's Bob, so the history of early tree planting is wonderfully written. Bonus: its paper is 100 percent cotton, felling no trees.