Testing of emissions from haul trucks in the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project, also known as the Big Dig, will not happen this year.
City Councilman Greg Brown announced the news at a Joint Use Committee meeting last week that included members of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board as well as the council. Brown said the contractor had refused to take part in the tests but Los Angeles County officials were optimistic they could get the issue resolved.
Urgent concerns about the huge project’s effect on air quality have repeatedly been raised by local residents and resulted in the formation of a watchdog group.
The proposed implementation of tailpipe emission standards was set to start sometime after a late September community meeting and before the trucks stopped hauling sediment for the year on Nov. 15. The tests were set to measure how diesel trucks’ engines performed with regard to oxides of nitrogen.
County Public Works Assistant Deputy Director Steve Burger confirmed the news on Monday, saying the contractor, Griffith Co., had raised concerns about the testing and obtaining the proper protocols from the University of Riverside College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology.
“It was a combination of a few different things,” Burger said. He said Griffith’s concern was how the testing would potentially affect truck drivers and that operators could even leave the project over it. Concerns included what the testing information would be used for and whether drivers could be penalized because of it.
“The answer is no,” Burger said. “It’s a study to determine emissions from trucks. It will not be used for enforcement or anything like that. You can say we’re confident we’ll work through the issues when hauling starts next May.”
Burger said the county was “fully committed” to the second phase of testing, which should take four to six weeks, and then results could be compiled and analyzed.
“We’ll work with the community and the California Air Resources Board to assess the information once we get it,” Burger said.
Additionally, a dedicated left turn signal from northbound Oak Grove Drive to westbound Berkshire Place is scheduled to begin construction in early January and be completed by the beginning of March, Burger said.
LCF for Healthy Air co-founder Elizabeth Krider said this week that “we fully support the county and working out the logistics with the contractor so that the equipment verification can happen.” Her organization comprises local residents who seek to reduce safety and health hazards to the community. Krider said the group continues to work with the county even during the hauling break on items such as a community safety plan.
Since the hauling project began, there have been four violations related to dust, a spokesman with the South Coast Air Quality Management District said on Monday.
Officials have said the project, whose first phase began in late November last year, was expected to include up to 425 daily round trips by diesel trucks.
The project, which county supervisors approved in November 2017, is aimed at removing 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.
Burger said 445,466 cubic yards of sediment, or 26%, has been removed.
Additionally, the La Cañada Unified School District continues monitoring the project with equipment whose total cost so far has been around $200,000, LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said at the committee meeting. The district is trying to find a way to recoup the cost, she said.
ADDRESS TRAFFIC CONCERNS NEAR PCY
A committee is to be formed in the aftermath of a Nov. 4 town hall meeting that was called because of traffic and safety concerns near Paradise Canyon Elementary School, located at 471 Knight Way.
According to a document distributed at the meeting, concerns included illegal U-turns, parking and jaywalking on Gould Avenue and Knight Way and drivers forming multiple lanes along Knight.
Potential solutions offered by the public included changing student drop-off and pickup times, teaching queue rules and encouraging carpooling. Other options included changing the intersection design, adding speed bumps and enforcing existing rules.
After the meeting, Brown said a committee comprising parents, neighbors, and school district and city representatives would be formed. Governing Board member Joe Radabaugh will appoint the panel’s members. Radabaugh also is a Joint Use Committee member.
“We all want to get underway right away,” Brown said. “Anything we can do immediately, we’ll do. Things that require construction and bidding and budgeting, those would be longer term.”
SAGEBRUSH VOTING AREA
Sinnette said it appears a decision regarding the area that would vote on the Sagebrush transfer issue could be made on Dec. 4.
The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization recently postponed a decision regarding the area until a future meeting, without confirming when that might take place.
“The next step is they’ll meet in December and try to hone in,” Sinnette said.
Sagebrush is located in the western part of La Cañada Flintridge but has historically been a part of the Glendale Unified School District. Efforts to transfer the territory into the LCUSD began in 1961 and were revived in 1978 and 1991 before the current attempt started in July 2013, LCUSD officials have said.
The county committee has not posted an official meeting agenda for its Dec. 4 meeting.
LCF Division Manager Arabo Parseghian reviewed the Nov. 13 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting and said its members were not comfortable making a recommendation for the Glenhaven Park area to be used as a permanent site for pickleball, a paddleball sportthat has grown in popularity, and will now look for “alternative locations.”
“The community in that area did not want pickleball,” said Parseghian, adding the topic took nearly two hours of conversation and the meeting had a “packed house.”
A temporary pickleball site is the basketball court at the former Foothill Intermediate School on Cornishon Avenue, but officials have said parking has been a significant issue in the area because four schools, the LCUSD district office, the Lanterman Auditorium and recreational facilities are nearby.