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


Could Lessons from Arcadia Woodlands Result in Better Hahamongna Plan?





Dan Abenschein


Altadena Patch


What began as a couple of sparsely-attended community meetings on removing 11 acres of oak woodland in Arcadia to clean out a nearby dam eventually blew up into a media circus earlier this month involving television helicopters, tree-sitting advocates looking to be arrested and widespread criticism of county officials.

Perhaps eager to avoid a similar problem with a similar plan to clear out sediment in the Devil's Gate Dam, which is located in the open space of the Hahamongna Watershed Park, county officials have proposed the formation of a task force that will review all future county dam sediment removal plans, including the Hahamongna one.

The measure was introduced by Michael Antonovich, Arcadia's representative in the county Board of Supervisors, at the board's meeting last week and was finalized this week.

Details on the task force are still forthcoming: Officials have not determined how many members it will have, who will select them, where they will come from, and when it will begin meeting, according to Edel Vizcarra, Antonovich's planning and land use deputy.

But, Vizcarra said, Antonovich has made it clear the group should have members from some of the same groups that have criticized the way the county officials handled sediment removal in the Santa Anita Dam, which resulted in the clear cutting of the 11 acres to accommodate the dumping of some of the 500,000 cubic yards of dirt and sediment that was in the dam.

"There would be civic groups, environmental groups, the Audubon Society, all of the environmental groups that expressed concern [about the projects]," Vizcarra said.

The Devil's Gate Dam sediment removal plan has already been criticized by local wildlife advocates, open space advocates and environmental groups alike because it involves the removal of about 15 acres of black willow trees as part of the removal of of almost 50 acres of sediment in the dam.

The area has been filled with sediment for so long that it blends right into the open woodland and creek areas of Hahamongna, and park users are not physically restricted from entering the dam area.

The black willows are much younger trees than the large oaks at the Arcadia Woodlands, but Hahamongna has long been fiercely defended by local advocates who want to see it remain untouched.

The plan at Hahamongna is different in other respects from the Santa Anita Dam plans: In this case much or all of the sediment will likely be trucked off-site to mines in Azusa and Irwindale.

In Arcadia, county officials decided against trucking out the sediment because it would have required multiple trucks to make regular trips through a residential neighborhood all day for many months.

According to the preliminary county plan laid out for Hahamongna, officials are expecting 300 to 400 truckloads of dirt to be removed every working day for eight months of the year over a three-year period.

The total sediment load would be 1.6 million cubic yards, compared to 500,000 in Arcadia.

Environmental groups have pushed for other options, such as sluicing the sediment down the Arroyo Seco stream bed, a process in which some of the sediment is released with water so that it's more of a natural stream instead of a channel.

The county originally presented that plan in early December before the Arcadia Woodlands issue blew up. Now department of public works officials are calling the Hahamongna plan preliminary and cautioning that the details could still change.

"The plan has not been fully developed," said Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the County Department of Public Works. "It's always been a work in progress."

He said the department anticipates working with the new task force, but added that the department has not changed its plans in response to Antonovich's motion to create the group.

The preliminary plan calls for the work to begin in Hahamongna in September, though Spencer said that may or may not end up happening.

While county officials are stressing the importance of community engagement on the Hahamongna plan, several local environmental advocates are skeptical that the task force will be taken seriously.

Lori Paul, an Altadena open-space advocate who closely followed the issues both in Arcadia and Hahamongna, said that while she commends the county for setting up the task force, she is not at all sure any good will come from it.

"I certainly don't trust the county to do the right thing in Hahamongna," Paul said. "That said, it's great the they are at least trying to show interest in finding a solution with us."

Laura Garrett, a representative of the Pasadena Audubon Society, said her group would seek to be involved in the task force. However, she said, in a few minor ways the county already has started off on the wrong foot.

The county sent an invitation to the Los Angeles branch of the Audubon Society, rather than to Pasadena, the branch more closely associated with Hahamongna and other nearby watershed areas. The invitation also asks people to meet in the middle of a Monday afternoon, a difficult time for anybody with a day job.

She said she wants to be involved in the process but does not believe county officials are likely to take the task force's suggestions.

"I hope it will mean something," Garrett said. "But it feels more like a PR move."

Arcadia resident Camron Stone, who emerged as a key figure in the fight to save the Arcadia oaks, said he's not ready to take a position on Hahamongna at this point but he'll be hiking the area soon to look into the matter.

"I think the county and Supervisor Antonovich are now very aware that there is a large group of people out there who can make a lot of noise," Stone said.

Editor's note: Matt Burch and Justin Chapman contributed reporting for this story.

Do you think the lessons learned from the Arcadia Woodlands will lead to a better plan for Hahamongna? Tell us in the comments.
Interested in a follow-up to this article?


Laura Z
6:00pm on Friday, January 21, 2011

Here is my answer to the silt problem: Silt Recycling!
The state of Illinois and the Army Corps of Engineers have been recycling silt for a few years now with a program called Mud to Parks:

They have been able to reclaim lands and restore riverbeds with excellent results while cleaning up silt in the Illinois River. They have just started Phase II because it is so successful!

Why are we treating our nutrient-rich natural resource like garbage? I don't think locating a better dumping ground is the answer. We have silt building up in all of our foothills. We need to find a way to put our good silt to use in order to save the oak groves of tomorrow.

Please join me in urging our local reps to consider this incredibly sensible and frugal alternative to destroying any more watershed and habitat.