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Groups huddle on response to Devil’s Gate Dam project

Devils Gate Dam
On Monday, Oct. 20, La Cañada Flintridge city leaders were briefed on exactly how, in the next five years, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District plans to remove 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment from Devil’s Gate Dam, pictured on Feb. 28, 2014.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

City and school officials are racing against time to ensure their concerns about L.A. County Public Works Department’s plan to remove 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment from Devil’s Gate Dam are heard and recorded before an anticipated Nov. 12 vote on the project.

La Cañada Unified School Board members discussed in a meeting last week the need for action in advance of the county Board of Supervisors meeting, during which members are expected to vote on the final Environmental Impact Report for the five-year plan.

And on Monday, La Cañada Flintridge City Council members echoed the school board, expressing their desire to appeal directly to representing Supervisor Mike Antonovich and his colleagues.

Erik Zandvliet, the city’s traffic engineer, presented the draft letter the city plans to send to supervisors and county officials, highlighting specific issues that weren’t adequately addressed in the project’s Environmental Impact Report.


“We’ve written responses into the draft letter reiterating some of our prior concerns that weren’t really addressed as part of the final EIR,” Zandvliet told the Council.

The panel hashed out the details of the letter’s contents and discussed possible next steps.

City and school officials, who have been coordinating their responses, say they’ll attend a public informational meeting tonight, sponsored by the Public Works Department, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Descanso Gardens’ Maple Room. The event is free and open to the public.

They also plan to maintain a presence at the county supervisors’ meeting on Wednesday morning to ensure supervisors hear La Cañada’s individual take on the issues.


Opponents of previous scenarios floated by the county’s Flood Control District, the La Cañada City Council and LCUSD Governing Board formally drafted separate documents in December 2013 detailing their worries about the project’s impact on air quality, student health and vehicle emissions.

The Flood Control District took those and some 1,500 other public comments into consideration before drafting the final details of the project and presenting them before the La Cañada City Council on Oct. 20.

In response to local concerns, county officials vowed to use lower emission trucks made in or after 2007 and to reduce the size and scope of the removal area from 120 acres to 76.

On Monday, council members said they were still unsatisfied with the county’s plan to run as many as 400 trucks a day along Oak Grove Drive and Berkshire Avenue en route to the 210 Freeway.

Just days earlier, school officials shared their worries that the health and safety of students attending the many campuses along the county’s proposed haul route was not adequately considered.

“I think the reference to student health is kind of cursory,” LCUSD Governing Board President Ellen Multari said at an Oct. 28 meeting. “It mentions there were no carcinogens found in the sediment. It also mentions that dust emissions meet the ‘appropriate levels.’ Well, what’s appropriate? When you’re talking about five years and 1,500 students on campus daily for that period of time … how many emissions are OK?”

After the board discussed how to reach out to potential decision makers, Multari admitted local opponents might be fighting a losing battle.

“This project is not going to be shuttered,” she said. “But what I really want is to ensure our community and our students and our families is that we’ve done everything we can to ensure and maximize the health of our students.”


On Monday, La Cañada resident Marnie Gaede addressed City Council members in a public comment, urging officials to make their voices, and those of their constituents, heard.

“They’re not listening to what the people have said,” Gaede told Council. “There’s a wide berth between what we’re asking for and what the county has delivered, and I think the city of La Cañada has the power to change that.”


FYI: An informational meeting on the Devil’s Gate Reservoir Sediment Removal project, sponsored by the L.A. County Department of Public Works and Flood Control District, will be held Thursday, Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the Maple Room at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada. For more information, visit