Devil’s Gate Dam sediment hauling begins under watchful eye of officials, residents

After a decade of planning, environmental tests, legal challenges and amendments by elected officials, a convoy of trucks hired by the county began rolling into Hahamongna Watershed Park Tuesday morning to begin clearing sediment from behind Devil’s Gate Dam.

And their progress did not go unwatched — a number of La Cañada city and school officials joined concerned residents and county Public Works employees to monitor the dig site and watch as double-trailer diesel trucks interfaced with street traffic and pedestrians on city streets in La Cañada and Altadena.

Hauling had been expected to start Monday but was postponed due to Sunday rain exceeding the county’s one-quarter inch threshold. On Tuesday fewer than 70 trucks completed 275 round trips, far below the maximum allowed 425 round trips daily.

Trucks also stopped hauling before their established 3:30 p.m. end time, which prevented them from mixing with hundreds of vehicles leaving La Cañada High School at the end of the school day.

Kelly Davis, a member of parent-led community group LCF 4 Healthy Air, saw haulers accessing the freeway via Altadena’s Windsor Avenue in the morning. She returned to the La Cañada intersection of Oak Grove Drive and Berkshire Place at around 2:30 p.m., after the haul routes shifted, to see how trucks handled a tight left-hand turn and interacted with cars and pedestrians coming from LCHS.

“I think they’re making a good conscious effort to do the best they can,” she said of the county’s move to mitigate the health impacts of the project and keep an open line of communication with residents.

Residents and environmentalists Kelly Davis and Liz Krider observe a passing street sweeper as a dirt hauler passes by in La Cañada Flintridge's Oak Grove Drive on the first day of debris hauling from Devil's Gate Dam Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Davis photographed trucks passing through the intersection with assistance from a sheriff’s deputy. She and others let nearby county officials know about observable issues but said things seemed to be running smoothly.

“There’s still plenty of work to be done, but the county has been a great partner so far,” Davis said. “They’re working really hard.”

Hauling will run eight months each year into 2022, as trucks remove some 2.8 million tons of dirt from behind Devil’s Gate Dam, where post-Station fire debris has sat for nearly a decade.

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown spent all day near the site to watch the full spectrum of first-day activity. He and LCF Public Works Director Pat DeChellis relayed concerns about fugitive dust, traffic issues and street sweeper activity.

“You just can’t hear about these things,” Brown said. “You just have to experience it.”

La Cañada school and city officials stand watch at the corner of Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Drive in La Cañada Flintridge to watch hauler trucks remove sediment from nearby Devil's Gate Dam on the first day of what will be a four-year project.
(Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

County Public Works deputy director Steve Burger said logistics will change and evolve as the department responds to public feedback and air quality readings.

One comment came in Tuesday about a long line of trucks “staging” — waiting to be called to the La Cañada dig site — on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta, between Lowell and Pennsylvania avenues. Burger said while queuing there is legal, he’d follow up with residents there. It’s all part of the county’s commitment to go “above and beyond” what’s allowable.

“We’ve heard compliments from the residents and we’ve received some input,” he said. “Day 2 will be better, but this was a great day — and you can quote me on that.”

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