Protest at Devil's Gate Dam sediment removal project

Former State Assemblyman and La Cañada Flintridge resident Anthony Portantino at far right joined residents in a protest called 'Hands Across the Dam,' which took place at at the top of Devil's Gate Dam in Hahamongna Park on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Residents are against a proposed Los Angeles County sediment removal project. (Photo by Mike Mullen / December 13, 2013)

A project to remove dirt and debris from the Devil’s Gate Dam led to a public demonstration over the weekend, as the school district and the city look to mitigate impacts.

Dozens of residents from La Cañada Flintridge and neighboring cities linked hands and stood on the bridge overlooking the dam on Saturday morning. Some residents were on horseback.

PHOTOS: Devil's Gate Dam protest

Most of them said they believed that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works draft environmental impact report outlines plans that are too expansive. The county is looking to remove between 2.4 and 4 million cubic yards of sediment over a five-year period. Officials have warned that if the sediment is not removed, there is a risk of flooding in the area.

The residents seek a smaller project over a longer period of time. Such a plan would involve a smaller number of trucks coming in and out of the region and less pollution, they said.

“We need more time for this to grow and continue to grow because this is probably the most beautiful spot in our region and it certainly should have great care and consideration,” former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino said during the event.

Others spoke of the impact of the habitat and animals that call the area home.

Longtime La Cañada resident Tom Johnston said he fished and explored the area in a rowboat as a child. He and his siblings called it “the dam,” he said.

He carried a sign that read “Devil With The Dam Plans” to the event.

“It’s just not necessary,” he said of the project.

Instead, he suggested that the county remove sediment on a slow, year-by-year basis.

The city and the school district have both expressed a desire to pass on some of the resident’s concerns in letters to the county. Comments on the draft report are being accepted until Jan. 6.

The City Council passed a resolution on Monday night to submit a letter to the county that would address concerns about traffic, pollution, and other environmental impacts; the La Cañada Unified school board on Tuesday also addressed the matter during a special meeting, approving its own resolution expressing similar concerns.

The city’s resolution states that the project should be extended from five to 10 years. It also states that low-emission trucks should be required for all truck trips to remove the sediment and that haul routes must not be used during school hours. Officials also believe that some truck trips would clash with rush-hour traffic going to and from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Oak Grove Drive.

City staff also plans to send out a separate letter to inform the county that they are working on a public comment letter, but that residents have expressed interest in receiving an extension to read through the proposed plans and send in comments.

The city may work on a joint letter with the school district.

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Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.

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