Big Dig Discussion Takes Over City Council Meeting

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK Trucks are expected to begin removing sediment this Monday, May 13, in connection with the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam project.
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
Trucks are expected to begin removing sediment this Monday, May 13, in connection with the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam project.

Several residents this week asked the La Cañada Flintridge City Council for help regarding a number of issues involving the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project, in which trucks are set to roll this Monday, May 13.
A key question raised at the council’s meeting on Tuesday night was answered in short order. It was announced toward the end of the session that Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis would be the city’s contact person for the Los Angeles County project.
In all, officials heard from six residents and two additional presenters regarding the controversial project. Resident Amy Nespor inquired, “Who do we call to express concerns about the traffic? I want to see public safety prioritized.” And resident Juliet Pappas had asked the council who would follow up on matters of air quality monitoring or changes in construction activities, and how these issues would be defined. “We also want to know how data will be shared,” she said.
On Wednesday, DeChellis told The Outlook that residents should first call the county or visit the project website at dpw.lacounty.gov/swe/devilsgate, but if they don’t receive answers in a timely manner, or don’t understand the answers, he can help.
“With my background, it does make a little bit of sense,” DeChellis said in a phone interview, adding he said he spent 42 years working with the county and retired as a deputy director of its Department of Public Works in 2016. “I know my way around a little better than the average citizen would.”
Residents can contact DeChellis at pdechellis@lcf.ca.gov or (818) 790-8882.
The meeting included presentations from LCF 4 Healthy Air co-founder and La Cañada Unified School District parent Elizabeth Krider and Steve Burger, assistant deputy director of the county Department of Public Works.
Their presentations were largely the same ones they made at an April 30 progress report meeting at La Cañada High School. That meeting was put together by Krider’s organization, which includes LCF and other area residents who aim to reduce what they see as daily safety and health risks presented by the project. LCF 4 Healthy Air started in November to respond to concerns about the impact of the project on what it says are approximately 3,000 children located within the project area.
Officials have said the project, whose first phase began in late November, is expected to include 425 daily round trips by approximately 95 diesel trucks through the intersection at Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Drive and onto the 210 Freeway in both directions. The haul trucks will meet model year 2010 emission standards, county officials said at the April 30 meeting. Sediment removal is the project’s third phase, officials said. Before the Tuesday meeting began, Burger confirmed that May 13 remained the target date. Removal will take place from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with hauling ending at 3:30 p.m., and no work on holidays or during major Rose Bowl events. It is to take place through November and from 2020-22.
On April 2, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to retain a consultant to place air quality monitoring devices at the site and evaluate the data publicly, among other actions. Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office later issued a statement saying she was working with a local committee, LCF 4 Healthy Air, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to “adopt strategies to address the concerns surrounding air quality, environmental health, traffic and the safety of diesel trucks.”
Supervisors in November 2017 approved a project to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park to increase flood protection and restore habitat within the Arroyo Seco Watershed. Work to clear out trees and vegetation began in late November 2018.
On Tuesday, city officials referred to a letter the council sent on April 25 to Barger that inquired about “how the county plans to ensure that the public’s health and safety will be immediately protected should an event trigger unhealthy indications.” It also asked the county to come up with an immediate action plan/focused community safety plan that would outline how data is collected and provide a measurement of potential health hazards from poor air quality, dust and traffic congestion.
After the meeting, Krider spoke about the need for such a plan.
“It’s really important,” said Krider, adding local parents and city officials have requested it. “Everybody wants it. It’s worth figuring out. I think everyone involved is making a good-faith effort. That’s encouraging.”
During his presentation, Burger said the county was aware of requests for an action plan and was working on an answer to the city’s letter with help from consultants, the SCAQMD and the Air Resources Board.
Councilman Michael Davitt added the general theme was to keep the city involved.
“I don’t want it to be shelved and in four months someone says, ‘What’s the city been doing?’” Davitt said. He said municipal officials might want to let the project start and continue for a month before they figure out the best way to address any issues.
Councilwoman Terry Walker said most of the questions were posed to the county and should be forwarded to a county representative with an encouragement to respond.
Besides addressing the Big Dig, the council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to enforce sports field closures through the use of penalties.
Division Manager Arabo Parseghian said that the purpose of the fines was to give city and law enforcement officers “teeth” to enforce the closures and that local sports teams agreed with them. He said non-permitted users, like some soccer groups, repeatedly use the fields when they’re closed.
A first violation would result in a fine of not more than $100. The second violation would lead to a fine of up to $200 and a third offense would merit a fine not more than $500. The fourth violation, and any other within 12 months, would be treated as a misdemeanor.

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