Heading to Griffith Park through an equestrian tunnel under the 134 Freeway, horse riders emerge to an unusual sight: huge yellow earth movers chomping into 15 acres of dirt between the freeway and the park.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is building underground reservoirs that will hold 110 million gallons of water and help eliminate the city's reliance on open-air reservoirs, including Silver Lake Res- ervoir. When complete, the two side-by-side Headworks reservoirs will be hidden beneath a new open-space recreation area along For- est Lawn Drive near Zoo Drive.
The $230-million project was set in motion several years ago when federal regulations required upgrades to open-air reservoirs, said Marty Adams, the DWP's director of water operations.
The laws call for reservoirs to be covered or replaced or to have additional filtration systems built on-site, he said.
When bromate, a contaminant formed by the combination of sunlight, chlorine and the naturally occurring mineral bromide, was discovered in the Silver Lake Reservoir in 2007, it quickened the effort to improve drinking water safety, Adams said.
The DWP's water supply is currently in compliance with state and federal regulations, "But as the standards get tighter," he said, the Headworks reservoirs project "will keep our drinking water in compliance."
The locals most familiar with Headworks are equestrians in the Burbank and Glendale Rancho neighborhoods who use tunnels under the 134 Freeway to get to Griffith Park trails.
Sharon Tydell recently walked her horse, a Morgan named Angel, through tunnel No. 7 out of concern that a machine operating just a few feet away might frighten the horse.
"She was OK," Tydell said. "But with the machine right there, it can be scary."
Tydell's friend, Jan Maurer, said Rancho-area horses have become accustomed to the clatter.
"I haven't seen any problems," she said.
Though Silver Lake is in the hills, Adams said the Burbank site is at a higher elevation. During peak times, the force of gravity will push the water around Griffith Park toward customers downtown and in East Los Angeles.
When the project is complete, Silver Lake Reservoir and the adjacent Ivanhoe Reservoir will no longer be used for drinking water or backup supplies. Adams said they will probably be used to store recycled water or storm water runoff.
The construction of Headworks and the installation of a large pipeline through Griffith Park are scheduled to be completed in 2017. The new park will open in 2018.