Judge OKs ‘Big Dig’ Sediment Removal Project

Despite opposition from local environmentalists, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled this week that Los Angeles County can move forward with its plan to remove 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment from behind Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena.
The Arroyo Seco Foundation and Pasadena Audubon Society sued the county over the “Big Dig” in 2014, insisting that only half the proposed amount needed to be removed to eliminate the downstream risk of flood damage to the 110 Freeway and 500 homes along the Arroyo Seco.
Removing the proposed amount, the groups said, will harm wildlife and air quality. The county has predicted as many as 400 trucks per day will be used to remove sediment for a period of as long as five years. Environmental groups argued that the county should reduce that number to 100 trucks per day.
But Judge James Chalfant ruled Tuesday that the objections were not sufficient to stop the project, and referenced recent damage to the Oroville Dam in Central California that has caused the evacuation of more than 200,000 residents.
“The importance of flood control should be obvious to all,” he said in court, according to local radio KPCC.
“With regard to the size and scale of the project, he ruled against us,” the Arroyo Seco Foundation’s Tim Brick told KTLA-TV. “We’re concerned that the plan the county has will be very devastating.”
County officials have said storms following the 2009 Station Fire caused more than 1 million cubic yards of sediment to flow into the Hahamongna watershed, reducing the dam’s capacity to 1.3 million cubic yards, less than the 4-million-cubic-yard standard.
The project will not proceed for several more months because the county still must acquire all the necessary permits from state and federal agencies.

— Mirjam Swanson

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