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UCLA flood: DWP should cover costs of water-main break, school says

Colleges and UniversitiesFloods and FloodingLos Angeles Department of Water and PowerUCLACommutingWater Supply
UCLA says LADWP should be held liable for huge mess, damage caused by massive water main rupture
'They weren't our pipes,' UCLA spokeswoman says of main break.

UCLA flood damage costs caused by a ruptured water main should be paid by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, a university official said Wednesday, even as officials continued to tally the cost.

“We believe all costs associated with this incident should be borne by the DWP; they weren’t our pipes,” said UCLA spokeswoman Carol Stogsdill.

The pipeline, which ruptured shortly before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, sent a cascade of water onto the UCLA campus for about four hours, inundating parking garages, sports facilities and campus buildings, including the Pauley Pavilion and Wooden Center.

“We’re keeping a running log of what this is costing, including anything we have to pay out," Stogsdill said. "This all comes under the DWP. This will cost the people of Los Angeles, not UCLA."

Examining the arena on Wednesday, university officials found no structural damage. But UCLA will replace the court in the arena, and temporary flooring could be brought in the meantime, Sports Now reported.

Earlier in the day, Rich Mylin, UCLA's associate director of facilities and event operations, said it was unclear when the arena might be usable again.

"We won't have any final real say on damage and replacements until probably Friday, I would hope," Mylin said.

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday that after speaking to experts, he was "confident" the basketball team would be able to play its season the arena.

The university is self-insured, as is standard for UC schools.

The pumping continued at two badly flooded underground garages Wednesday, but more than 700 marooned cars will not be able to be moved until at least Thursday, Stogsdill said.

“It will not be today. No one thinks that is going to be possible,” she said.

The length of time it took to shut off the water left DWP officials defending their response. Officials said crews worked as quickly as possible to shut down three large-diameter valves. Closing them too quickly, the agency said, would have triggered additional ruptures in the web of water lines feeding the area.

Jim McDaniel, a DWP senior assistant general manager, said crews also had to battle rush-hour traffic to get to the scene on Sunset, a short distance from the UCLA campus.

The failure of the aging, steel-riveted water main was another black eye for the DWP. Five years ago, the city suffered a plague of 101 major breaks in the summer and fall, as water repeatedly burst through the aging network of corroded old cast-iron pipes.

L.A. City Councilman Felipe Fuentes cautioned that Angelenos shouldn’t jump to conclusions after the pipeline break. He said the city clearly needs more funding for its water infrastructure, but he rejected the idea that the Sunset Boulevard incident itself pointed to a need for a rate increase, saying it was too soon to tell what had gone wrong or how to fix it.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that we have a lot of old pipes and infrastructure,” said City Council President Herb Wesson, who planned to visit the break site Wednesday with Fuentes and Councilman Paul Koretz.

Wesson said it was too soon to say whether rate increases would be needed, or whether it was a mistake to not pursue a hike this year.

“I want to do this in a methodical and not a knee-jerk fashion,” Wesson said. “I’m too old for my knee to jerk.”

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

2:03 p.m.: This post was updated to include information about the status of the Pauley Pavilion court.

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Colleges and UniversitiesFloods and FloodingLos Angeles Department of Water and PowerUCLACommutingWater Supply
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