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Town Council to Ask Pasadena to Reconsider Dam Clean-Out Issue

The Altadena Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to request that Pasadena consider the possibility of allowing storage of dam debris in the Hahamongna Watershed Park as a way to minimize truck traffic on Altadena streets.

The Altadena Town Council will formally ask the Pasadena City Council to consider a plan to store debris from a planned summer dam clean-out that will result in the removal of about 25,000 cubic yards of sediment blocked up in the Devil's Gate Dam.

The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to write a letter to the Council, because without on-site storage in the Hahamongna Watershed Park, Altadena streets could see dozens of debris-hauling trucks on city streets for weeks this summer. County officials are hoping to start the project in July.

County officials have said they want to use Windsor Avenue to haul the dirt out to the 210 Freeway. There has also been out through La Cañada Flintridge, but officials have said that Windsor is the preferred route because there is not a clear road from the dam to the La Cañada side right now that could be used.

The dam clean-out plan has taken on a serious sense of urgency because the dam has become inundated with dirt, tree stumps, rocks, and other debris since the 2009 Station Fire denuded the hillsides and resulted in an unusual volume of dirt build-up. 

Removing the 25,000 cubic yards, which Town Council members coined as the "little dig,"  is just the first step in a much bigger project where county officials expect to ultimately remove almost 2 million cubic yards ("the big dig") likely starting next summer.

The push to have Pasadena store the 25,000 cubic yards on-site was initiated by Altadena Town Council member Tecumseh Shackelford, who represents the neighborhood around Windsor Avenue where the truck traffic will likely go if Pasadena does not give permission to store the material on-site.

Shackelford pointed out that multiple streets would be impacted by the increase in traffic on Windsor.

"There are four or five streets where the only way to get out of your home is on Windsor," he said.

Pasadena officials originally said they would at least consider the plan, but last Thursday announced they had from their agenda.  City officials told Patch that they were not certain whether various legal agreements and master plans would prevent them from storing the material on site.

The proposed location for dumping the dirt in Hahamongna is Johnson Field, a former softball field where a seasonal lake now sometimes appears.  Some have raised concerns that frogs and other wildlife would be harmed by the storage plan.

How Many Trucks?

Another issue at the meeting appeared to be some uncertainty on exact figures. Shackelford said that on-site storage would reduce the number of trucks per day on Windsor to about 10.

However, Lori Paul, a local environmental advocate, produced a document quoting a Department of Public Works official that it would actually be about 20.

Department of Public Works figures have said at previous meetings that without the storage plan, Windsor could see 50 to 60 truckloads a day, but various other figures were cited at Tuesday's meeting, as low as 40 to as high as 120.

A DPW official was scheduled to attend the meeting to answer questions, according to the agenda, but did not end up showing up.

Community Reaction

A group of local Hahamongna activists showed up to the meeting and urged the council to be vigilant about making sure the county is minimizing Hahamongna impacts.

Marietta Kruells told the Council that if they "roll over" and allow the county do whatever it wants for the little dig, Altadena could end up seeing the bulk of the traffic during the larger dig coming up next year.

Elizabeth Boren, who said she had recently moved to Altadena but has followed Hahamongna issues for 16 years, said she believed that existing legal agreements might stop Pasadena from having the right to do the storage on Johnson Field. She said she had concerns about the on-site storage plan, but also the plan to haul the dirt out on Windsor.

She suggested that residents affected by the Windsor traffic "document it" with video so that they will have proof of the negative impacts of the dirt hauling when the decision on how to remove the larger volumes of dirt in the "big dig" is made.

Newly-elected Town Council member Brent Musson, who will take his seat in July, spoke as a member of the public and suggested that if the county goes through with the Windsor plan that the Town Council use it as an opportunity to demand upgrades on the street such as sidewalks, repaving or other improvements.

Project Timeline

A decision on which route to take will likely be made soon, as county officials have said they want to start the work in July.

Whether Pasadena officials change their minds to consider the plan is anyone's guess. A city official told Patch that they would not have sufficient time to study the plan's impacts if the county wants to start hauling on schedule.

Altadena Cycling Gal June 23, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Sad to see there wasn't a formal presentation by LA County as was listed in the Meeting Agenda Items before the Council unanimously decided to recommend the 'temporary' filling of Johnson Field. The ATC letter could have been an opportunity to include protective measures and alternatives for the 'short' term haul especially not knowing if Pasadena will or can even allow Johnson Field to be filled as rumor has it there are legal issues brewing. Also, Johnson Field is no longer an operative ball field and is referred to by PWP as Spreading Ground #15 (also a flood basin to protect the roads around it). If the answer is YES to fill it, what will it look like.... a huge pile of dirt or leveled off and flat? It will be filled with tons of sediment nearest the Dam which is a mix of debris including storm drain run-off: plastics, styro-foam, spray cans, bottles etc. And what is the impact of removing it? If the answer is NO to the ' temporary fill' it looks like Atadena will be stuck with 'lots' of of diesel trucks (why not biodiesel?) and the long(est) haul route up and down the Hahamongna and Windsor mixing with JPL employees, residents, trail users: walkers, hikers, runners, equestrians and bicyclists. Don't forget Windsor Ave. was thinned by the Monk Hill Treatment Plant and the double yellow turn lane down the center to Woodbury. What is the impact to the silent victim, the eco-system and the wildlife who thrive in the Hahamongna Watershed? A mess is brewing.
Mitzi Shpak June 23, 2011 at 06:27 PM
re Hahamongna cleanout: The potentially affected residents need to make an issue of the health effects of the proposed increase in diesel truck traffic through their neighborhood---there are many groups (particularly in the port cities of California) that have studied those effects and have mounted effective campaigns to have those effects mitigated. As an environmental justice advocate (Exec. Dir. of an EJ non-profit org.) I have worked with and networked with such groups and would be happy to help connect those interested. There are CDC funded environmental health tracking studies done on the transportation corridors in the Bay area that would provide helpful information. I would also strongly suggest that the residents attend the Calpirg Activist Training Workshop on 6/25/11 https://secure3.convio.net/engage/site/Donation2?idb=509136756&df_id=4920&4920.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=cazutum9o5.app333b Feel free to contact me for help Mitzi msmshpak@gmail.com
Patrizzi Intergalactica June 30, 2011 at 05:34 AM
Oh dear dear Mr. Shackelford, Please don't enable the Pasadena City Council to pile dirt in a water restoration: natural purification and groundwater storage basin...aka Johnson "field." It will damage the neighborhood ground water even more than it has already been damaged. Start asking your neighbors if they drink the tap water, grow their own food, if they are sick with autoimmune disorders or cancer? The particulate matter emissions from diesel trucks in the neighborhood further complicates the source of the illnesses. The City of Pasadena needs to buy the properties all along the eastern rim of Hahamongna. They should have done this long ago when JPL was subcontracted by National Defense and there was the toxic chemicals and radiation release. Here is tge can. These are the worms. I am so sorry, dear Mr. Shackelford.

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