Judge rules Devil's Gate Dam environmental report 'deficient'

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works officials will likely have to revise and re-vet their environmental impact report for a multiyear sediment-removal project at Devil's Gate Dam, after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling Tuesday calling plans for mitigating the cumulative habitat and air quality impacts of the project "deficient."

Judge James C. Chalfant tentatively ruled against the county's claim that biological resource impacts of the project would be reduced to less than significant levels. He also ruled the impact report failed to include enforceable terms to ensure nitrogen oxide emissions from sediment-hauler trucks would be reduced to less than significant levels.

The ruling comes more than two years into a legal battle between the county and local environmentalists who want to halt the plan to remove 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment from Devil's Gate Dam over a five-year period, in favor of a lighter, more gradual removal.

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The project was certified by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors during a Nov. 12, 2014 meeting. Now, public works officials will need to revise elements of the project's environmental impact report to address shortcomings identified by Chalfant and take the document back to supervisors for reapproval.

Mitchell Tsai, an attorney representing plaintiffs the Arroyo Seco Foundation and the Pasadena Audubon Society, said Wednesday petitioners were pleased some of their claims against the sufficiency of the impact report and its mitigation proposals were supported by the tentative ruling.

Both parties will reappear before Chalfant in a final hearing March 23, at 9:30 p.m., at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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