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:

Our View: Open up our county dam projects

Subtitle:

Date:

2011-03-03

Author:

Publication:

Pasadena Star-News

Content:

We've said it before and we'll gladly say it again: The county 's Department of Public Works has been remarkably successful in its primary mission to keep property and people safe from flooding.

We only wish the department and the county Board of Supervisors - their bosses - would be more consistent in their approach, especially with the crucial issue of transparency. In those two areas they are not so successful.

In January, we opposed the decision to level 11 acres of coastal live oak and sycamore trees in a stand in north Arcadia, abutting the Angeles National Forest. The county said it was necessary to clear the trees so it could dump sediment dredged from behind Santa Anita Dam , and, we learned later, from other foothill dams as well. Yes, an Environmental Impact Report was done, but at no point did the county consider alternatives to the tree-stripping/dumping plan, or listen very hard to the strong concerns of affected parties. The process was kept quiet until our reporters began writing about the issue - then a decision was rushed.

Now, the county is saying debris from the Station Fire of 2009 has "doubled the amount of debris" behind Devil's Gate Dam in the Upper Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. The county is disingenuously using the fire as an "emergency" exemption that allows not filing an Environmental Impact Report. In reality, this was an attempted end run around the California Environmental Quality Act. We were glad to see the supervisors reverse this position on Tuesday by voting to require that an EIR be prepared and discussed by the public before a shovel of sediment is moved.

CEQA in some cases is the only way for affected parties to learn fully about actions that affect their local environment. In this case, an EIR will give neighbors, other government agencies, environmental groups and others a chance to read the pros and cons of a proposed project . Public hearings are a critical part of that process and we would expect to see several held with a clear explanation of the project , alternatives and mitigation measures.

That being said, an EIR should not be prepared for obstructionist purposes. Groups that use it for this purpose are violating the spirit of the law. We do not favor putting off the debris removal project if indeed the project is necessary for a better functioning Devil's Gate Dam . Right now, we are leaning toward backing the removal of the 1.6 million cubic yards of debris from behind the dam and transporting by truckloads via the nearby 210 Freeway to a gravel pit in Irwindale, whose operators want the dirt for fill, as the best solution. That is as close to a win-win as possible.

But the county must work to protect our natural resources, and those include saving at least some of the trees in the southern portion of Hahamongna Watershed Park. If it takes longer to do the project in a way that protects the trees and the animal habitat, so be it. Compromises can be reached to protect rather than bulldoze the park that Pasadenans created as a preserve for people, for flora and for fauna.

Rather than continuing the secrecy, the county should post a schedule of the next sediment removal project at all dam sites to give folks notice even if it's 10 or 15 years out, then budget for an EIR process so the public can hear alternatives and see possible mitigation measures.

The county Department of Public Works must fulfill its primary mission. But as the urban-wilderness interface becomes more important to San Gabriel Valley residents, it must find ways to do its job with more sensitivity and in new ways not imagined when the dams and washes were built almost 100 years ago.