By Jim E. Winburn
Since the last couple of articles (Sep. 27 and Oct. 1) on the Santa Anita Dam Sediment Removal Project in Arcadia, a few readers have written to this paper to air their suspicions over the county’s future plans for the site.
Bob Spencer, Public Affairs Chief for the L.A. County Public Works Department, recently told this reporter that the sediment placement site in Arcadia has never and will never be used as a regional dumping site for the at-large sediment placement needs of the San Gabriel Valley.
While further explanation will be given later in this article, it is important first to explore suggestions to the contrary by readers who have written to this paper regarding their stance on the Arcadia sediment placement site.
In his Sep. 27 letter to this paper, City of Monrovia Planning Commissioner Glen Owens responded to this reporter’s first article, stating that the amount of sediment extracted from behind the dam did not come close to Public Works’ initial estimates. “It becomes very obvious now that there was no need to destroy this 11-acre woodland,” as Owens explained, “to accommodate an additional 250,000 cubic yards supposedly contained behind the dam.”
Owens in his letter accused Public Works of covering up this alleged miscalculation by now “saying that the debris disposal site in Arcadia is a regional site to serve all of the San Gabriel Valley’s debris dam facilities.”
Public Works representative Bob Spencer said that this is not true. In the meantime, it may help readers to understand all the fuss behind a “regional” sediment placement site in Arcadia.
Nearly a week after Owens’ letter, Jim McKellar raised concerns over the apparent notion that Public Works would be hauling dirt from all over the valley through Arcadia neighborhoods. “If they think now they are going to use this area to truck in sediment and debris from other projects in the area – they will find Arcadia residents will give them a fight this time – and they will not win,” wrote McKellar.
But this was not the first time that public alarm was expressed over the supposed issue of hauling dirt through local neighborhoods because of a suggested “regional” sediment site.
In a Jan. 11, 2011 letter to Supervisor Michael Antonovich on the subject of environmental options for the Sediment Removal Project, then-Arcadia City Manager Donald Penman said the county’s supplemental report explained that the removal of 11 acres of woodland would increase the overall capacity of the sediment site by several hundred thousand cubic yards. According to Penman, “The report indicates that this additional capacity can be used as a debris site from other Flood Control locations in the region.”
But Spencer said that this is absolutely untrue. “It is not a regional disposal site – sediment placement site – nor was it ever intended to be, nor will it be,” he stated for the record.
And he explained why, saying the other debris basins, from which sediment is normally emptied, are all “local debris basins” – not regional.
“There are four local debris basins that – we have for years under an agreement with the City of Arcadia – we have put sediment from those local debris basins at the Santa Anita site, and we will continue to do that,” he explained.
Saying that the Santa Anita placement site will never be a regional sediment placement site, Spencer said that the county has an agreement with the City of Arcadia – “a signed agreement that continues to allow us to place that material from these local debris basins at the Santa Anita placement site.”
In addition to serving the Santa Anita Dam and the local Sierra Madre Dam, Spencer said the Santa Anita placement site in Arcadia would only serve the Santa Anita Debris Basin along with the following local debris basins, all of which are located in Sierra Madre: the Auburn, Bailey, Carter, Lannan, and Sturtevant debris basins.
Spencer said that the county works with the communities very closely in order to ensure that the impact of truck traffic is absolutely minimized as much as possible.
On occasion Public Works employees find themselves racing both time and weather patterns “to ensure that the debris basins are cleaned out so that they can withstand the next storm or weather system that might be due within a matter of days.”
The bottom line: those debris basins must be emptied. If they are not emptied, then they do not perform the function they are intended to do – which is to save the neighboring communities, Spencer said.
“If the debris basins were not able to capture and hold the collectively millions of yards of material that they do, then the consequences of that to surrounding communities would be extremely bad, as it would have the potential to overwhelm those communities,” he said.