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.

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Larry Wilson: More mud in the fight about Devil's Gate muck





Larry Wilson's Public Eye blog


Pasadena Star-News


The director of the Environmental Analysis program at Pomona College has weighed in on what he calls the "Mud Fight" about how to deal with the sediment behind Devil's Gate Dam.

Not that even Char Miller, whose academic expertise lies precisely at the intersection of water and wildfire in the American West, has an answer to the 1.5 million cubic yards of muck and rocks that came down from the San Gabriels in the rains after the Station Fire.

An answer that will please everyone, that is. Because there is no such answer. Not when you've got a big sediment problem threatening an old dam. Not when you've got neighbors who question the county plan for 300 to 400 dump trucks a day five days a week for three years. Not when you've got the most knowledgeable expert anywhere, former Metropolitan Water District Chairman Tim Brick, noting that "everyone else has to do environmental impact reports - why doesn't the county?"

But Miller does have the background to point out just how important is Devil's Gate, at the place in the Arroyo Seco where the mountains, Altadena, Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge meet.

"The fact of the dam's presence and its centrality to modern life - indeed, to the ability to live in this region - cannot be gainsaid," Miller writes in his regular weekly commentary at SoCal Focus, KCET's Southland blog ( "Something has to be done."

Wow. That dam I run and hike and play golf under every single day as central to modern life - in these parts, at least. But it's true: Lying in the path of what is dammed is downtown Los Angeles, if you take the L.A. River path to its logical extremes.

Being a professor, Miller reminds us of history. But rather than concentrating on the famous 1938 flood that John McPhee so memorably reconstructs in "The Control of Nature, he goes back to the 1914 flood that is the reason Devil's Gate was built in 1920: Forty-three people dead. Houses carried away. Roads downstream destroyed. No way the Rose Bowl would have been built in the mid-`20s without it.

Miller, while supporting some kind of debris removal, goes beyond the immediate question by reminding us of the folly of believing engineering can save us from nature thanks to "our touching faith in scientific experts, our heartfelt conviction that an ever-more engineered terrain will solve our environmental conundrums. It has not, and will not." Then he quotes a former chief deputy engineer at DPW: "We should stop building things where they do not belong."

OK, then. But here we are, and we're not budging. Meanwhile, former Pasadena gadfly Ray Dashner, lately decamped to Tampa, writes with his own idiosyncratic solution, based on how Kobe, Japan built a square-mile island in a bay via electric motor-powered conveyor belts filled with dirt running from a nearby mountain. "Conveyors continue down to the concrete ditch all the way to the South Pasadena line," Ray says, though I'm not sure how all will take his plan to then just fill up the wash with the residue. But, hey, it's a plan!

Public Editor Larry Wilson's blog is