Truck stuck in the mud on Sierra Highway when the Mint Canyon Creek overflowed (part of the Santa Clara River Watershed) during the El Nino weather event of February 1998. Photo by Gary Thornhill/SCVHistory.com.
Sure it looks dry most of the time, but it’s a desert stream, after all, and sometimes it flash-floods – taking cars, houses and people away with it.
Just in time for the rainy season, County Public Works Director Gail Farber is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve additional funding Tuesday for a study aimed at solving the decades- and even centuries-old problem of flooding in the Santa Clara River Valley.
A new “sediment transport” study would come at a cost of $1.5 million. It’s one piece of a bigger pie that dates to 2004 when the county agreed to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ventura County Watershed Protection District to study the entire 1,600-square-mile Santa Clara River watershed from Acton to the Pacific Ocean.
The watershed is roughly evenly divided between Los Angeles and Ventura counties – 772 square miles in L.A. County and 831 square miles in Ventura County. L.A. County’s focus is on the area from Sand and Mint canyons (Sierra Highway area) easterly to Agua Dulce and Acton.
In 2004, the agencies agreed to split the initial $8.2 million price tag: $4.3 million from the Army Corps, $2.2 million from Ventura County and $1.7 million in in-kind services from the L.A. County Flood Control District.
Structures in the Acton area are lost as the banks of the Santa Clara River crumble, probably in the flood of March 1938 or February 1941. Photo: SCVHistory.com
L.A. County has performed $1.7 million worth of work in the form of hydrology, surveys, mapping, sediment sampling and project management, plus another $369,000 for a geomorphology study that was completed last year.
Farber’s funding request for a “complex and highly specialized” sediment transport study would boost the county’s contribution to $3.569 million.
The goal of all of these studies, according to the 2004 board report, is to “identify flood protection and sedimentation problems and opportunities within the watershed. … The results will be mapped and integrated into a GIS database for analysis.”
Once the studies are done, perhaps they could lead to the actual work of shoring up the river so homes won’t wash away as they’ve done for decades across the SCV during El Nino weather events.
February 1998: A motorist is stranded as Placerita Creek overflows. Photo by Gary Thornhill/SCVHistory.com.