Wrong call on hauling Devil’s Gate detritus: Editorial
What an insult to the people of La Canada Flintridge, Altadena and Pasadena is the county Board of Supervisors’ 4-1 vote for the wrong plan to remove the accumulated sediment behind Devil’s Gate Dam.
And the kick in the head, of course, is that the lone courageous dissent was not from the supervisor who represents the people of those foothill communities, Michael Antonovich. It was from Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, and who listened to reason on this issue and preferred, as all the communities affected do, a compromise plan to get rid of some of the mud and rocks that could affect the old dam’s effectiveness if there were a major rainstorm.
And Yarovslasky mused that even the more thoughtful compromise might be overkill. The working group commissioned by the city of Pasadena and including other interested parties and experts on flood control not tied to the county’s party line came up with a plan that by no means sticks its head in the sand as to the need to remove sediment. It’s just that rather than 400 dumptruck loads a day for years, it recommends 300 loads. The termed-out supervisor quite rightly wonders whether his constituents wouldn’t be screaming bloody murder about the compromise plan, much less the overkill plan, if it were to be imposed on their neighborhoods.
Exactly a year ago, when the draft Environmental Impact Report for this proposal was being reviewed, we noted that the tons of sediment behind Devil’s Gate Dam, where Altadena, La Canada Flintridge and Pasadena meet in the Arroyo Seco, have taken decades to get there.
We acknowledged that certainly the dirt and rocks and muck were increased when the Station Fire burned so much of the Angeles National Forest directly to the north in the San Gabriels, increasing the flow toward the alluvial plain during the rainy seasons of subsequent years.
But we maintained that the hundreds of thousands of cubic yards that have built up did not by any means happen all at once, and, after listening to many experts not involved in the flood-control industrial complex, came to understand there is no real flood-control emergency or need to remove the sediment on a go-fast basis.
But even though over the last 12 months the working group drew up a highly practical alternative that would provide just as much assurance of a safe dam in the event of a flood emergency, four of the supervisors including the one who should certainly know better got sucker-punched into believing that extremes rather than moderation needed to be gone to.
A study by the Arroyo Seco Foundation suggested moving about 167,000 cubic yards each year for a decade (including more sediment that will flow each winter), and then evaluating the need for more work at that point. Such a reasonable plan would mean less noise, less dust and less intense pollution than in the too-short and active time frame currently suggested by county engineers.
We’re loath to go along with most threats of legal action after an elected body has made its decision, right or wrong. In this case, the county’s plan is so contrary to reason, so expensive, so ruinous to neighborhood tranquility for so many neighbors for a period of years, that we say: “See you in court!”