As the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works prepares to begin a five-year sediment haul at Devil's Gate Reservoir in the fall, some La Cañadans are rallying behind a lawsuit that aims to stop it in its tracks.
A group of residents and civic leaders convened at Dish restaurant in La Cañada on Jan. 8 to learn more about the project, approved by county supervisors on Nov. 12 and challenged by a lawsuit filed one month later by environmental groups the Arroyo Seco Foundation and the Pasadena Audubon Society.
"We want a moderate program," said Tim Brick, managing director of Arroyo Seco Foundation, explaining the impetus for the suit. "And we want to be able to sit down with them, and they'd have to really treat us seriously. We want to get a much better program out of the county — that's really our goal."
The Save Hahamongna campaign contends the county's environmental impact report did not adequately address environmental concerns posed by engineers and activists collaborating as the Pasadena Sediment Working Group.
That group claims the project would destroy part of a biologically valuable stream zone habitat in the process of bringing sediment levels way lower than the basin has historically held since the 1930s.
To further mitigate the project's environmental impact, working group members asked the DPW to consider removing 1.1 million cubic yards of sediment, as opposed to 2.4 million, over a longer time period. But while other concessions were made, those recommendations were not adopted.
"We tried to get our word out there, but the response was very dismissive," Brick told the Dish audience. "So when the county came out with their final plan, we just felt that we had to take one more step in order to ensure that the public will is implemented."
Although several La Cañada city and school officials publicly raised concerns about the effects of the project — which could see as many as 400 trucks per day moving hauled sediments to dumps in Sun Valley and Irwindale — no formal action was taken.
La Cañada parent and equestrian Shannon Griffin said she organized last week's discussion to inform people who still might not know much about the immense work being planned for Hahamongna Watershed Park, or how it might impact them.
"Today is an opportunity for them to state their case, but also to present both sides in a fact-based way," Griffin said of the litigants. "(Because) some people still don't know."
La Cañada parent Ingrid McConnell said she'd been aware of opposition to the Devil's Gate proposal but hadn't compared it to the plan suggested by the Pasadena Sediment Working Group. She said she'd also thought residents didn't really have much of a say in the matter.
Now she feels differently.
"If people learned more about it and felt strongly enough, I think that's actually the best hope of slowing what's going to happen," McConnell said after the meeting. "A groundswell is what we need."
Los Angeles attorney Mitchell Tsai, who filed the lawsuit against the county, said Save Hahamongna campaign hopes to rally enough support and funding to take on the county's own legal counsel, to challenge permits pulled by the county and possibly seek an injunction to halt the work until a ruling could be made.