Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HWPAC May 24 Meeting report

The Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee had a full house and a full agenda at its May 24 meeting which began with an item concerning the temporary use of an Annex building by the Pasadena Fire Department. Fire Station 39 located on Avenue 64 was found to be structurally unsafe and the City closed it immediately. The Fire Department has requested the use of the Annex main administration building garage to store equipment and fixtures. The equipment will be out of service and not in use by fire personnel so there will be minimal impact upon the park. It is expected that the Fire Department will need the use of the space for about two years. Staff emphasized, however, that should work on the Environmental Education Center move forward, the Fire Department is aware they might need to find a new storage area.

As you may recall, the Forest Service, which was displaced because of the Station Fire, was also temporarily using a portion of the Annex. They have now moved out and will be returning to their own facilities.

Brad Boman, Pasadena Water & Power, gave an informative presentation concerning the department's extensive work in the Upper Arroyo necessitated by the massive sediment flows out of the mountains. He stated that the major maintenance activities have now been completed. The next steps are to hire a consultant to upgrade/replace the water intake structure, to renew the Fish and Game permit, and to integrate the JPL east parking lot into the water spreading operations. (There were several inquiries as to when JPL will be leaving the east lot. The city does not have this information yet but expects to shortly.)

The presentation on grants, both pending and recently denied, elicited the most comments from both the Committee and the public. Rosa Laveaga reported that the city just narrowly missed approval for a Nature Education Facilities grant awarded by the California Natural Resources Agency, a real disappointment considering the long delay in the implementation of the Environmental Education Center. The grant for the Pasadena Equestrian Center was also rejected as were two grant applications for the restoration of Berkshire Creek. in 2010 and 2011 only two grants were awarded which have Hahamongna components, a trail restoration grant for the Eastside Neighborhood & JPL (Altadena) Connector Trail and a $100,000 habitat restoration grant. Things are not looking so good on the grant front. Money is scarce, competition fierce, and the city staff much reduced.

Staff gave a report on the agreements with the Annex tenants, Rose Bowl Riders, Tom Sawyer Camps, and Mach 1. The process is very time consuming since it involved multiple city departments including Public Works, Planning, Human Services and Recreation, the City Attorney's Office, and the Real Property Division in the City Manager's Office. The first step is the application for a multi-tenant Conditional Use Permit. Public Works will be the lead department in moving the process forward. No funding has been identified for the projects.

Another item on the agenda concerned the LA County Post Station Fire Sediment Removal Project but there was no one from the County there to give a presentation. Committee members and the public were urged to attend the County's meeting on Thursday, May 26, 6:00 pm at La Canada High School at which the various sediment haul routes will be presented.

Last but not least, staff provided the Committee with an update on the Hahamongna Basin Multi-Use Project, one of the Greater Los Angeles County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan projects to be funded by Prop 84 funds and administered by the Arroyo Seco Foundation. There were a number of errors in the grant application which staff is correcting. The completion date of the CEQA process was listed as June 2011 which has now been corrected to an estimated completion date of February 2012. The number of acres of open space created by the sediment moving has been corrected to 15 acres not the 23 acres originally stated. The update also makes clear that, although IRWMP funds will not be used to build the controversial sports field and expanded parking lot, the funds to do so will provide the matching funds which will allow the IRWMP projects to proceed. In non-bureaucratese, you can't have one without the other.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Advisory Committee will be Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More on Devil's Gate Interim Sediment Removal Plan

At its April 26 meeting the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee received an update from Los Angeles County Flood Control concerning the interim measures to be taken to clean out sediment in Hahamongna behind Devil's Gate Dam. The most important update was a clarification of the haul routes to be used to remove the sediment.

According to the presentation, 25,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed from the area immediately behind the dam. The work will proceed on an emergency basis under a CEQA exemption which will require that no further environmental work will have to be done.

Preparatory work began March 31, 2011. Actual sediment removal is anticipated to take 16 to 20 days with the removal of 1600 cubic yards of dirt per day. Clean out is scheduled to begin June 17 and to continue until August 15, 2011. Other measures to improve dam safety are scheduled to be completed between August 15 and October 15, 2011. These include heightening the sluice gate, replacing the damaged ladder system, installing a new catwalk and log booms, and modifying the Altadena West Storm Drain.

The County anticipates having to do a similar clean out effort each year until the environmental impact report for the final sediment removal project is completed.

The haul route as illustrated in the presentation will go north along an access road on the east side of the park to just below the east JPL parking lot where the trucks will turn south and go down Windsor Avenue to the 210 Freeway. The bulk of the sediment, over 90%, will then be trucked east to pits in Irwindale. The organic material comprising the rest of the sediment will be taken via the 210 Freeway to Scholl Canyon landfill in Glendale.

There were a number of questions concerning why the County had chosen the haul route which would cause the most neighborhood disruption as well as the most environmental impact within the park. The Committee and the public both asked about other alternatives. One mentioned was the road at the southwest corner of the park which has been used for prior debris clean outs. Another was the possibility of exiting the park from the southeast in a way which would not impact the neighborhood. The County assured the Committee that this alternatives had been considered.

The Advisory Committee passed a motion to request the Pasadena City Council to examine the County's transportation plan to identify areas to be impacted, to ask the County to consider alternative routes which would reduce environmental impacts, and to notify areas to be impacted.

If you would like to read County Flood Control's presentation, it can be found at Interim Measures 200110426.pdf

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hahamongna sediment removal report to City Council

At their April 11 meeting the Pasadena City Council heard a presentation by Steve Sheridan of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works concerning the County's plans for sediment removal behind Devil's Gate Dam in Hahamongna Watershed Park.

County Public Works is working with a consultant to prepare an Environmental Impact Report as directed by the Board of Supervisors to study the effects of removing the massive amounts of sediment which have washed into the basin as the result of the Station Fire. As yet no schedule has been set up for outreach meetings. When the schedule is set up, the City and the public will be notified.

The bulk of Mr. Sheridan's presentation, however, focused upon the measures which the County will take while the EIR is being prepared to protect the integrity and continued operation of the dam and to insure flood protection to downstream communities. Chief among these measures is the removal of 25,000 cubic yards of sediment from along the face of the dam. This excavation will be within 100 feet of the dam and no vegetation will be removed. The work is expected to begin in June or July of this year, depending upon how quickly the basin dries out, and to last about one month. Mr. Sheridan in his presentation stated that there would be 250 truck trips per day. The report to the Board of Supervisors (link given below) estimates 150 to 200 truck trips per day, however.

To remove the sediment from the basin, the access road along the east side of the dam will be re-established. The haul route will be along this road to just below the JPL east parking lot, then on to Windsor Avenue to the freeway and ultimately to Scholl landfill. According to Mr. Sheridan, at present no alternate site has been identified so that the sediment would not have to be deposited in the Scholl landfill. Other interim operational measures include extending the height of the existing sluice gate trash rack, replacing part of the damaged ladder system on the face of the dam, replacing the existing wooden boom logs, installing a new catwalk around the spillway ports, and modifying the Altadena West Storm Drain to allow discharge in the event the outlet becomes blocked by sediment.

The County is also working on two emergency plans to be in place until the reservoir cleanout is complete. The first will notify agencies and residents in response to potential flooding due to high debris flows. The second will be used to notify agencies in response to a dam safety emergency.

To read a copy of the Board report, go to

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Report on recent Hahamongna Advisory meeting

The following is a report on two items of interest which were discussed at the March 22 meeting of the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee.

The first was the Hahamongna Basin Multi-use Project, a cooperative effort between the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, the City of Pasadena, and the Arroyo Seco Foundation. The project is one of 13 Greater Los Angeles Integrated Regional Water Management Plan projects submitted to the CA Department of Water Resources for possible Proposition 84 funding. Should funds be awarded, the grantee would be Los Angeles County Flood Control which would complete a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the Arroyo Seco Foundation. The initial amount requested is $4,341,281 and the total project cost is estimated to be over $7 million.

According to the grant application, this project "will increase water supply, improve water quality, and improve ecosystem health..." Some of the project components include the removal of 250,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment from the Hahamongna Basin and the use of this sediment to create 23 acres of open space outside the flood zone at the northern end of which the existing parking lot will be expanded south to accommodate 200 vehicles. Adjacent to the parking lot, the compacted fill will create a 4-acre level field to accommodate a future 2.4 acre multi-purpose field. (This sediment removal project is not the Los Angeles County Flood Control Post Station Fire Sediment Removal Project but rather an additional project to be completed after the County's project.)

Other project components in the Basin include raising the base elevation of the SCE power poles, restoring habitat, raising 3000 linear feet of the Perimeter Trail out of the area of frequent inundation, restoring Berkshire Creek, and widening an existing park road to allow for two way traffic.

Up in the Arroyo Seco Canyon, project components include replacing the intake dam with an inflatable dam, fish screens, habitat restoration, trail enhancements and the installation of a public restroom.

The staff presentation at the meeting emphasized that certain of the above components of the Hahamongna Basin Multi-use Project, such as the sediment removal to create the sports field and enlarged parking lot, would not be paid for by Prop 84 IRWMP funds. These projects such as the Sycamore Grove field and the Berkshire Creek restoration were identified as "Multi-benefit Projects." When questioned, staff stated that other funding sources for these projects had not yet been identified.

There followed a long and confusing discussion concerning future environmental documentation, the first of which was to be completed in June 2011 according to the grant application. Pasadena staff assured both Committee members and the public that this date was incorrect. There will be environmental impact reports done for the IRWMP-funded portion of the project, for the portion staff referred to as the "Multi-benefit Projects," and for the County Flood Control Post Station Fire Sediment Removal Project. How these environmental impact reports will be coordinated is unclear. Stay tuned for how to get involved when more information on this is made available.

If you are interested in learning more, take a look at the Prop 84 Implementation Grant Application which is available online. The work plan for the Hahamongna Basin Multi-use Plan is in Attachment 3. Work Plan 1 of 5. The link is

Staff also gave an update on the JPL east parking lot, all but 200 spaces of which is to become spreading basins. JPL is planning to move ahead with a $22 million parking structure on their own property. When this is built, the lab will no longer need the east lot parking in Hahamongna. Funding has not yet been approved by Congress, however.

The Advisory Committee passed a motion to recommend to the City Council that the Council urge JPL to plan its onsite parking garage so that the lab can also vacate the 214 space parking lot on the west side of Hahamongna (the lot immediately adjacent to the JPL campus). You may recall that the west side parking lot is the so-called "temporary" parking lot which was carved out of park open space in 1986 and which has always been slated to return to open space. The motion passed unanimously/

The next Hahamongna meeting will be held May 24, 2011. The March agenda item concerning the HWP Annex and Environmental Education Center Planning was held over until this meeting.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


In my prior post, I inadvertently left out an important piece of information. The trucks will be taking sediment out of Hahamongna not all year but rather from May until December at the latest, depending on the weather.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hahamongna sediment removal project

The County of Los Angeles is planning a massive earth moving project to be implemented in Hahamongna on an emergency basis. Ryan Butler of the Water Resources Division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works gave a detailed presentation concerning the Devil's Gate Dam and Reservoir Postfire Sediment Removal Project to the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee at its November 30 meeting.

The project is required because of the Station Fire which burned nearly 100% of the undeveloped Arroyo Seco Watershed. Nearly one million cubic yards of sediment were washed into the basin in last winter's rains and the sediment level rose 15 feet in the basin. Should similar rains occur this coming winter, the sediment level could rise an additional 15 feet, putting the operation of the dam at risk, according to Butler. Devil's Gate Dam protects parts of Pasadena, South Pasadena, and the City of Los Angeles.

The County's plan is to remove 1,671,000 cubic yards of sediment from behind the dam. This amount was chosen because it is an estimate of the amount of sediment which could accumulate behind the dam should a 50 year intensity storm occur when the watershed is entirely burned. The excavation area is planned to be about 50 acres. About 15 acres of willow trees will be permanently removed when the basin behind the dam is widened and deepened. The precise number of trees to be removed has not yet been determined.

The huge amount of debris to be removed will require 300 - 400 truckloads of sediment per day to be removed Monday - Friday for at least three years at a cost of $35 million. The haul route will be along Oak Grove Drive and the 210 Freeway and will not impact the Pasadena neighborhoods adjacent to Hahamongna. The plan is to haul all the sediment away to the Manning Sediment Placement Site and Azusa Land Reclamation although the County is open to working with Pasadena to leave some fill onsite to create the proposed new sports fields. The County is also proposing a paved two land road on the west side of Hahamongna near the dam which could be used for future sediment removal projects. The road will cross the existing trail and could necessitate closing the trail and the Flint Wash Bridge during the work week for the three year duration of the project.

The project, scheduled to begin in September 2011, is proposed to be implemented on an emergency basis with an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act so that no environmental impact report will be required, despite the massive scale of the project and the sensitive nature of the habitats in Hahamongna. The County will, however, be required to obtain all necessary permits from agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Game, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Environmental damage will be mitigated although, as one Committee member pointed out, this mitigation does not have to be done in Hahamongna but could be done elsewhere.

Despite recognizing the necessity of sediment removal, the Advisory Committee and the public at the meeting expressed many concerns. One of the most frequently heard was a concern that other, less draconian, solutions had not been thoroughly explored as would have been required had the normal CEQA process been followed. One audience member referred to the proposal as a "scorched earth" approach which would have a catastrophic impact upon the wildlife in the park. Other issues raised were traffic impacts on an already congested Oak Grove Drive, air pollution and the nearby school children and noise pollution. Committee members questioned the need for a permanent two lane road in the park. The Committee also expressed a strong interest in jobs and contracts being awarded to local residents.

The Committee passed a formal motion which included the following:
Committee notification of when the project comes before the County Board of Supervisors
Posting of the County's project presentation on the Pasadena city website
Strong support for jobs for local residents, especially women and minorities
Request that the County study alternatives which would have less impact upon the natural habitat and which would cause less noise, air pollution and traffic impact
Request that the County study the maintenance road in terms of its surface, permanent nature, and width
Request that the County seek opportunities to reduce the impacts of the project upon park users
Regular quarterly updates to the Committee about the project from city staff and a presentation by County staff after they have their permits from the regulatory agencies

Friday, October 1, 2010

Recap of Hahamongna Committee meeting

At its September 28 meeting, the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee held a discussion about how to proceed with the planning for the Environmental Education Center to be located on the former Forest Service campus in Hahamongna. Rather than forming a subcommittee to formulate recommendations, the Committee decided to hold a public meeting to be led by a facilitator who will solicit input from both the Committee members and the public. This will probably be held at one of the regular upcoming meetings of the Committee which are held every two months on the fourth Tuesday of the month although a date has not yet been finalized.

The Committee also received a letter from the LA County Department of Public Works, Water Resources Division, informing them of a major sediment removal project in Hahamongna necessitated by the Station Fire. As the letter notes, the Station Fire burned over 160,000 acres in the San Gabriels including the Arroyo Seco and deposited 936,000 cubic yards of post fire debris. The sediment removal in Hahamongna will make room for future sedimentation that is expected to occur. Construction is expected to begin as early as next summer. The County will make a formal presentation of this project to the Advisory Committee when the details have been finalized.

The Committee also asked for a report on the Hahamongna Basin Multi-Use Project which includes a sediment removal component as well. The latter is one of the two Upper Los Angeles River Watershed projects selected to be included in a Prop 84 implementation grant application by the Greater Los Angeles County Integrated Regional Water Management region. The initial amount requested was $2.971 million with a total cost of 7.255 million. Should the Prop 84 funds be awarded, the CEQA date is December 2011 and the estimated construction start date is May 2012.

Given the urgency of the County's Station Fire sediment removal project, the Committee asked that the County's presentation be given at their next meeting if possible. The date of the next meeting has not yet been set.