Debris basins set for expansion

Glendale and La Crescenta residents toured local debris basins Saturday morning to learn about improvements made to the first line of defense against flood damage.

About 50 people met at the Pickens Debris Basin for a presentation sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley about expansion plans for debris basins and sediment placement sites in the flood control district.

"It's an opportunity for the community to become more informed and engaged about what's going on," said Kerjon Lee, public affairs manager for the flood district.

"The Station fire response wasn't what it should have been," Lee said. "Glendale residents, for example, should not have to make five phone calls to different agencies to find out what is going on."

With the storm season officially starting Oct. 15, Lee, along with flood control district and county public works staff, plans to have additional community meetings to address resident concerns throughout the foothills area. Both entities are continuing to work with local agencies to coordinate communication.

Last storm season, the county held 65 community meetings for residents in potential flood regions.

The county public works department is working to enlarge Pickens, Snover, Big Briar, Mullally, Pinelawn and Starfall debris basins.

The project will increase the capacity of the basins — which collect mud, rocks, sediment and vegetation that wash out of canyons and protect the area drainage systems during the storm season — by more than 68,000 cubic yards.

Tim Rahtz, a lifelong Glendale resident, attended the meeting to address his concerns about the Dunsmuir Sediment Placement Site adjacent to the Dunsmore Debris Basin in Deukmejian Wilderness Park.

"There was talk that the site was going to run out of room [since the Station fire]," Rahtz said. "But it looks like we have longer than expected."

The trucks that load the debris from the neighboring basin at 6 a.m. some mornings are heard from Rahtz's residence in the hills.

"It's something you have to live with if you want to live up here and be safe," he said.

Los Angeles Department of Public Works engineer Arthur Vander Vis, who led the presentation at both sites Saturday, also addressed Rahtz's concern about whether the county had reached an agreement with the city about the eventual use of the sediment deposit site.

"Glendale will take the space over, and most likely it will be used as open space or a public park," Vander Vis said."It may look like a perfect location for a mansion, but that's just not going to happen."

Although the site will not be used for housing development, it is compacted to withstand most potential seismic activity in the area.

"People want to know that soil and debris is being placed in a responsible manner," Vander Vis said. "In the short term, we have the capacity, but Mother Nature will be Mother Nature, and in the long term we need additional locations to protect the residents."

Crews are expected to finish preparing the basins and sediment deposit sites in time for the first rains of the season.

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