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:

County Officials Answer Questions on Hahamongna Plan

Subtitle:

Date:

2011-01-28

Author:

Justin Chapman

Publication:

Altadena Patch

Content:

The controversy over the county’s large scale sediment removal plan in the Hahamongna Watershed Park continued Tuesday night at the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee meeting, where Senior Civil Engineer Kenneth Zimmer and Grace Yu of the county Water Resources Division answered questions from concerned members of the public and committee members.

Local environmental groups have said the plan to remove sediment from the Devil Gate's Dam, which is brimming with dirt washed down from hills denuded by the Station Fire, will be damaging to local plant life and animal habitat.

The county's preliminary plan calls for the removal of up to 50 acres of sediment, including 15 acres lined with black willow trees.

Zimmer suggested giving a presentation on the latest updates on the county’s plan at the advisory committee’s next meeting in March, which some feel does not give the public enough time to discuss possible alternatives to the plan before it is presented to the Board of Supervisors April 26.

“We’ve made our concerns known to county staff,” said committee chair Don Bremner. “Even though they said they were exempt from CEQA requirements and any alternatives, many of us wish that they had presented some alternatives, showing the current plan and then some modification to that. Perhaps something less aggressive, so the community had an opportunity to comment on plans A, B and C, and let the county know whether the members of the public favored their plan or something less aggressive. And so far that’s missing. I’m not sure how we’ll have an opportunity now.”

Members of the public also lined up to register their concerns with the current plan.

Elizabeth Bour, who spoke during public comment, was also concerned about the length of time the county is allowing for public discussion of the plan or possible alternatives.

In addition to concerns over tree habitat, she said she's concerned about the trucks that will haul the sediment away- the county's estimate is that empyting the dam could require 300-400 truckloads of sediment to be removed daily.

“My concern is that with our next meeting here and your presentation to the supervisors, how much time is there going to be in between for any opportunity for discussion,” said Bour. “This may be premature but I’m going to say it now because it may be my last chance: I still have not got an answer how you’re going to get the trucks in there, and I’m sure you’re addressing it."

Zimmer responded by saying that the county is looking at bringing trucks in from both ends, from Arroyo/Windsor on the Altadena side and Berkshire on the La Canada side, though he acknowledged that Bour was right about concerns that the county would have to widen the dirt road they are planning to use on the Altadena side.

“You’re right,” he said. “If the trucks came from the right they would have to swing out and make a wide turn and we’d probably have to build a huge plateau, so we’re looking at Berkshire instead. The paving is only at the apron and maybe 100 feet in. The rest we’re not going to pave. It was an idea that was out there, but there were a lot of people who objected to it, so we have no problem leaving it a dirt access road. And that’s the proposal right now, for a dirt access road down into the reservoir itself.”

Altadena activist Lori Paul also spoke during public comment but directed her comments to the two county staff members in the audience, Zimmer and Yu. She raised several issues, but found the county’s emergency declaration the most concerning. That declaration would exempt the county from putting the plan through the state's regular environmental planning process.

“The public hasn’t had legal and adequate input to any of these plans and the plans are still fluid and influx, so I would encourage the Hahamongna Park Advisory Committee to, in whatever way possible, challenge the emergency exemption,” said Paul. “I find it rather outrageous that after two full winters after the Station Fire, where they had high floods and debris flows, that suddenly there’s an emergency exemption that wasn’t imposed right afterwards and there wasn’t much done until now. "

Zimmer and Yu did not respond to her comments but reiterated their earlier suggestion that they present the latest updates at the next committee meeting.

Rosa Laveaga, Pasadena's staff liasion to the committee, said that the only significant thing that has happened since their last meeting is that county staff has prepared a preliminary set of plans they submitted to staff with the City of Pasadena, which is reviewing the plans.

“We should be getting staff comments back to the county by the end of the month and we will report back on those comments in February,” said Laveaga.

Yu said that the Water Resources Division is currently in discussions with all the regulatory agencies right now, including Fish and Game, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

“If everything falls into place, we’re prepared to go to the Board of Supervisors for approval April 26,” said Yu. “But it’s very preliminary right now, so we will update you once we have a set date.”

Paul was still upset that it had to come to this in the first place.

“I can’t imagine why the plans didn’t anticipate that there might be a massive fire someday,” Paul said to Zimmer and Yu. “So clearly the county’s track record here is not good, and I urge you to use caution and try to get as much input into this process as possible.”

County officials have said in recent weeks that they want to take environmentalists' concerns into account: at a board meeting earlier this month Supervisor Michael Antonovich introduced a motion to form a volunteer advisory committee on all county sediment removal actions.

While some of the same environmentalists at the meeting have said they are skeptical the committee will do any good, there is a meeting Saturday about organizing an environmental coalition that would attempt to work with the county to come up with less impactful alternatives in its sediment removal plans.