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Drought, Permit Snags to Delay Filling 2 Sepulveda Basin Lakes

Times Staff Writer

The Sepulveda Basin wildlife lake will not be filled with water until the fall, more than eight months after it was scheduled to open, Los Angeles city officials said.

Also, a 26-acre recreation lake planned for the southeast corner of the San Fernando Valley’s largest remaining open space will not be filled until late 1990.

Both lakes have been dug and landscaping, footpaths and bird-viewing blinds have been added to the wildlife lake area.

The most recent delays were caused by the drought, snags in a complicated permit process and an agreement to keep the wildlife lake drained during the hottest months to avoid mosquito breeding, city officials said.

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City staff had hoped to have the recreation lake filled with a combination of fresh water and treated sewer water until an expansion of the Donald C. Tillman sewage treatment plant provides enough water to keep the lake full, said Kathleen Chan, city project manager for the recreation lake.

Drought Problems

“Obviously, with the drought, it would be ridiculous to even think about doing that now,” Chan said.

Although the recreation lake probably won’t be filled for 18 months, she said, bike trails, picnic areas and other amenities in the area should be open to the public within a year.

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In the case of the 11-acre wildlife lake, it has taken the city longer than expected to compile information necessary for a state permit, said Gary Schussolin, a city parks engineer. The state Regional Water Quality Control Board must approve both lakes because of the use of treated sewage water.

“We’ve been going back and forth with the water quality control board,” said Joel Breitbart, assistant parks director. “They have asked us for information. We get it. They need more. We give them more.”

Drained in Summer

Although Schussolin said he expects state approval this spring or summer, parks staff recently agreed that the lake would be drained during the summer to prevent mosquito breeding, in response to concerns of staff of the Southeast Mosquito Abatement District.

“There are so many people involved who all want input into it,” Schussolin said. “We thought we had taken care of it all during the public hearings, but then others came along.”

It was not the first delay for the two lakes and an arts center complex, which have been met with intense public criticism since their inception.

The City Council approved a master plan for the basin eight years ago and in 1985--the year the lakes originally were to have been completed--some funding finally became available from a combination of federal and local grants and developer fees. At that time, projections were amended to a 1986 or 1987 opening for the lakes.

Homeowner Complaints

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But a continued outcry from homeowner group members and environmentalists, who said the development would interrupt bird habitats and spoil the natural landscape, led to more lengthy public meetings, petitions and lawsuits. And more delays.

By 1987, city parks officials again were amending their predictions to a late 1988 to early 1989 opening for the wildlife lake, followed soon after by the recreation lake.

The arts center complex--including an amphitheater, museum, galleries and a 2,500-seat concert hall--was approved by the city Recreation and Parks Commission nearly a year ago. It remains in limbo as legal action against it continues.


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