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







Petrea Burchard




The Hahamongna basin fills up with rain and silt every year. The Devil's Gate Dam has a job to do--keep all that stuff from flooding Pasadena, South Pasadena and beyond.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Water Resources Division Flood Control District (LACDoPWWRDFCD for short) has a job to do, too--keep the dam in working condition.

Well, the LACDoPWWRDFCD's been busy, you know? So many dams (14), so little time. The sediment behind the Devil's Gate Dam has been building for some time and could have continued to do so. But the 2009 Station Fire scorched the mountains so severely they couldn't retain their soil. In early 2010, along with ash and debris, it all came flowing into the basin by the ton. Actually, it came by the cubic yard--almost a million of 'em.

Last year was an average rain year. Another year like it will bring the dam near to "uncontrolled flow at the spillway," according to Ryan Butler of the LACDoPWWRDFCD. Last Tuesday, Butler and Ken Zimmer of the LACDoPWWRDFCD presented the Postfire Sediment Removal Project (PSRP) at a meeting of the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee (HWPAC).

Beginning in September of 2011, long after this coming winter's rain (which, you may recall, could bring the dam near to "uncontrolled flow" if it's an average year), the LACDoPWWRDFCD will first create a road into the basin from Oak Grove Drive near La Canada Flintridge High School. Then they'll remove 15 acres of native willow trees from the basin. By then they figure the rains will set in so there probably won't be much sediment removal next fall and they'll cease working until the spring of 2012.

Then (two rainy seasons from now, I guess we should pray for drought?) the emergency work begins in earnest. That will be 300-400 trucks per day, 7:30am-5pm Monday through Friday between May and December, hauling sediment out of the 50 acres closest to the dam to sites in Irwindale and Azusa. The job is expected to take 3 years at a projected cost of $35 million.

The "emergency" status of this project gives the LACDoPWWRDFCD a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption, meaning an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) isn't required (even though there's still more than a year to do it--but you know, so many EIRs, so little time). The LACDoPWWRDFCD still has to get permits from the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Each of these agencies may require some sort of mitigation, environmentally speaking.

More questions will be asked. The city of La Canada Flintridge will have to weigh in. Mary Barrie of Friends of Hahamongna wrote an excellent report about the LACDoPWWRDFCD presentation. Arroyo Seco Foundation Managing Director Tim Brick expressed, among other things, his belief that this should be an issue in our upcoming municipal elections.

The stuff's gotta go. But does it have to go like this? The outgoing chairperson of the HWPAC, Tim Wendler, asked if other plans were considered before this one was chosen. "There's not a lot of options," said the LACDoPWWRDFCD's Zimmer. He added, "Deferring clean-outs doesn't work." Seeing as the LACDoPWWRDFCD has been deferring clean-outs for some years now, I guess we could say we have proof that he's right. Zimmer had the second-best line of the evening when he said, "Believe it or not, this is the fast track of the county."

The best line of the evening came from HWPAC member Maria Isenberg: "Can we get rid of that nasty little soccer field?"

I will bring you good news about Hahamongna later this week, I promise.