Debate on Mountain Water Tank Revived

Times Staff Writer

An old environmental controversy involving the planned construction of a huge water tank in the mountains above Tarzana and Woodland Hills has been revived at least fleetingly by evidence of an ancient landslide at the tank site.

At a public hearing in Woodland Hills on Thursday night, officials of the Department of Water and Power said that the four-million-gallon Corbin tank will be moved 90 feet south of the originally planned location to avoid the slide area, but that it will otherwise be virtually the same project that overcame a court challenge two years ago.

Walter Hoye, engineer of design for the department, told the small gathering at Taft High School that earth moving at the site bordered on the north by Mulholland Drive was halted last year when geologists found indications that a landslide occurred there an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 years ago. Hoye said that the southern half of the site, where the tank will be relocated, was not affected by the slide and that extra layers of compacted soil will be placed beneath the giant steel structure as an added precaution.

Hoye said about two-thirds of the tank, which will be 30 feet tall and 156 feet in diameter, will be buried, and berms and landscaping will make the rest all but invisible from most angles.

It is called the Corbin tank because Corbin Avenue would pass near the site if that street were extended south beyond the rim of the San Fernando Valley.

Only about a dozen citizens showed up for the hearing, and all three who spoke raised familiar arguments that the $4.5-million project is unnecessary or will be a visual blot on the nearly pristine lands it borders: Topanga State Park to the east and south and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy's Mulholland Crest property to the west.

Jane Lewis, a Reseda resident who hikes in the area, also questioned how moving the tank 90 feet could solve a problem of geologic instability.

Walter Zelman, a member of the department's board of commissioners who ran the meeting, told the gathering that the tank relocation was the main point at issue, since it is the only major change from a plan approved in 1981 and 1982 by the City Council and the DWP.

Hoye said that, if the commission approves the revised plan, work will begin in the spring.

Department officials say the tank is needed to serve future development, for added fire protection, and for backup storage for an area that gets its water from electrically driven pumps. Water will run downhill from the tank to homes in the area.

Two of those who spoke Thursday night told department officials that they should at least consider a land swap with the conservancy so that the tank could be installed just north of Mulholland and out of view of the state park and several popular hiking trails.

Gwendolyn Harwood, a Woodland Hills resident, said the department had made little effort to publicize the hearing. Rather than mail news releases to local newspapers, the agency ran small newspaper advertisements on Thursday.

Because of the limited publicity, Zelman said, the department will extend its deadline for written comments on the tank relocation for 10 more days.

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