Monday, February 28, 2011

What Remains

The video above, of the Hahamongna Watershed Park, is from the Save Hahamongna site. It's a citizen lobby group focused on the preservation of this unique natural area that is currently threatened with sediment infill and development. A detailed discussion of the planned Devil's Gate Dam Sediment Removal proposal is here. It has been laid out by the County of Los Angeles despite the long-expressed feelings of local residents:

"Hahamongna is the rare spot in the Arroyo Seco at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains where the mountainous watershed meets the urban plain. Periodically floods roar into this basin. Bounded on the north by the mountains and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and on the south by Devil's Gate Dam, Hahamongna contains five unique habitat zones that only exist in alluvial canyons near the mountains. Most sites like this in Southern California have been destroyed."

The effort behind the video has been galvanized by the fate of the Arcadia Woodlands, which was bulldozed into extinction on January 12, 2011. My followup article on the civil disobedience required to draw attention to the habitat destruction, as well as the impact of the ongoing plan to do the same at Hahamongna, is here. A new campaign by Urbanwild Network to save Hahamongna from these plans is outlined here, supported by the Pasadena Group of the Sierra Club.

This last Friday at a meeting of the County Supervisors, Antonovich made a motion to study the Hahamongna sediment removal plan in further detail to try and mitigate the impact of this, particularly the removal of the willows. However, the County Public Works Department is reluctant to engage in a full EIR and permit any delay of this plan.

The County DPW is simply out of control and completely subject to financial shell games that lead to the least maintenance and cheapest, most destructive solutions that can be funded with "emergency" monies as soon as an emergency can be legally established. There is no effort devoted to the stewardship of natural processes and environments, it's simply a plumbing problem created by the earlier engineered water systems that are not performing in a sustainable manner. Legal bullying compounds the original engineering shortcomings, exacerbated by age and lack of a forward-looking plan for modifying and replacing the water system components so that they work without tremendous requirements of maintenance and money. Many ideas, such as a sluice system that works with the natural watershed characteristics, have been proposed to replace the old local dams that are failing and silted up. It's time to take a different direction in our remaining watersheds with state-of-the-art practices and conservation.

Update from Cam Stone early this morning:

A County Board meeting will be held on Tuesday March 1, 9:30 am, at the Hall of Administration in downtown LA, and Supervisor Antonovich will put forward a motion to require the DPW to obtain an EIR for the Hahamonga Sediment Removal Project. The DPW will be at the meeting pleading their case as to why they should be able to move forward on their project without any public input or EIR.

Christle Balvin, Don Bremner and I met with Edel Vizcarra and Tony Bell at Antonovich's office on behalf of the Urbanwild Network to discuss the fallout from the Arcadia Woodlands debacle and the DPW's plans to use an emergency declaration to remove sediment from Hahamonga without any public input. This meeting took place a week ago Friday. Both Tony and Edel were very open to our concerns and vowed that what happened in Arcadia would never happen again. We were all very excited by the tone of the meeting and what seemed like a genuine desire to work with the public and environmental groups on all future DPW projects.

We specifically asked that Michael Antonovich require that the DPW obtain an EIR for the Hahamonga project. Both Tony and Edel supported that notion to ensure the buy-in of the public and environmental groups. They said that the DPW had told them that the safety of the dam was at stake because the dam's valves were currently clogged with sediment and that an EIR would take over a year to complete. We told Tony and Edel that if the county agreed to complete an EIR for the entire project, we believed that the environmental community and local citizens would agree to the immediate removal of sediment from the rear face of the dam out to 40 -50 yards from the dam face without an EIR. I hope that we can all agree to this concession.