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May 21
1978 - St. Francis Dam site becomes a State Landmark [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Nov 17, 2013
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

Leon Worden recently wrote on Facebook:

 

“If I had the time – sadly I don’t – I would write a column about how sick I am of L.A. city and water officials after a whole week of hearing them hail William Mulholland as a hero, without ever ONCE even MENTIONING that Santa Clarita Valley and Ventura County paid with their LIVES so Los Angeles could grow. Not Eric Garcetti, not Christine Mulholland, not nobody, made even the remotest mention of it at the goofy ceremony at the Cascades; there isn’t so much as a tiny little plaque at the new art installation at the Los Feliz fountain where they heap praise on the Chief. Yes, he was a brilliant engineer who designed one hell of an aqueduct system – thanks to maneuvers by shifty politicians who outsmarted Owens Valley farmers. But he also designed and built a cog in the wheel that killed 450 of us. I don’t even have any confidence that the artist woman with the silly ‘mules walking’ project even KNOWS about it. It is reprehensible that it was never once acknowledged this past week. I suppose I am jaded; all my adult life (and previously) L.A. City has tried to use Santa Clarita as its dumping ground – whether it’s more landfills (we already have one that handles far more than our own trash, thank you) or regional gravel pits or dense housing projects in pristine wildlife corridors on our borders. The mistreatment by L.A. is all part of the reason we tried in 1976 and again in 1978 to break away from Los Angeles County (we voted to secede, but the rest of the county voted no because they needed our money). Anyway, I really need to vent, and I guess I just did.”

 

Thank you, Leon. You have expressed how many of us feel about the way the city of Los Angeles treats us here in the northern section of Los Angeles County. Our little valley has been the “dumping ground” for so many of the problems of that big city to our south.

You’ll hear from the city of Los Angeles that it is the county and not the city that causes our problems. But the county has sent so many problems to us only because we lack the population to fight back.

For those of you who know me and what I have written about Los Angeles County over the years (since about 1997), you know I’m not a huge fan of the county. I’ve had some especially harsh words for our 5th District supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich.

Well, you’re reading it here and now: Too often the votes at the Board of Supervisors meetings are 4-1. Sometimes 3-2. Too often, Mr. Antonovich is in the minority of the vote because he is protecting us, or at least trying to do so.

You see, the other four supervisors represent lots of folks who are also citizens of the city of Los Angeles. And what the city of Los Angeles wants, it usually gets.

Ask the folks in Owens Valley. Or those around the planned Cemex plant here in the SCV.

If we could, we would ask some of the 450 folks who died in the failure of the St. Francis Dam in 1928. They weren’t mentioned in the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first aqueduct to Los Angeles. The 40-some workers who died when constructing the aqueduct were mentioned, but not those 450 souls who went to bed and were crushed and drowned by a wall of water rushing to the sea. Nothing.

William Mulholland should be remembered as a great civil engineer who built the aqueduct and got the water to the rapidly growing city of L.A. Even the failure of the dam cannot be blamed on him. He was using the best engineering practices of his day. It was a case of the best practices not being good enough.

The problem is – and this is directed at Los Angeles CITY – We’ve housed your homeless and your drunks. We take your garbage and put it in our landfills. We’re mining the aggregate and putting up with the pollution that Cemex brings because you don’t want it mined in the mountains closer to you. Many of the criminals incarcerated at the jail in Castaic are from the city of L.A. Your aqueduct runs through our valley like a huge snake. And 450 of our citizens gave their lives to get you your water.

They at least deserved a mention at that 100-year celebration. Sometime. Someplace. Maybe at that huge fountain that is a memorial to Mr. Mulholland? Maybe on a marker at the Cascades in Sylmar?

We get nothing from all that. Not a drop of water or a single watt of electricity. The Big City and its Department of Water and Power (“Drip and Tingle at your service”) don’t even want to talk about that rather inconvenient bit of history. They are still sweeping it under the rug and whispering about how “We don’t talk about that here.”

We talk about it. We talk about being the red-headed stepchild of the City of Angels. Some “angels.”

We no longer have a sign that says of our valley, “Here it is … Take it,” as Mulholland said of the water he brought south.

It is no longer your dumping ground.

The Santa Clarita Valley is our valley.

If you think you had problems with the folks in the Owens Valley in 1913 or so, consider that a warm-up for us.

What is past is merely prologue.

Our history and our valley shall be preserved.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Tyler Montgomery says:

    Actually, there was an exhibit about the St. Francis Dam failure at the DWP Open House, which was held at DWP headquarters simultaneously with the ceremony at the cascades. It probably wasn’t mentioned at the actual ceremony because it took place 15 years after the opening of the aqueduct.

  2. Andrew says:

    Yes, and the thousands and thousands of jobs that are south of the Newhall pass? SCV wouldn’t be possible without those, so remember where your “livlihood” comes from and remember, that we all play a role in this county’s properity, resources and benefits.

  3. Jimmy says:

    “We’ve housed your homeless and your drunks.”

    How are they our homeless if they don’t have homes? Heck, how are they our homeless if they have homes in SCV? Sounds like they are SCV residents.

    As for our drunks, I’m not sure how they got up there. Please send them back. Someone is probably looking for them.

  4. Rich says:

    “We’re tired of YOUR commuters clogging up OUR freeways!” “We’re tired of OUR tax dollars funding highway projects in YOUR community!”

    Your commuters spew more toxic fumes on the freeways that go through our communities. So let’s not pretend that SCV is some quaint self-sufficient little berg being bullied by big, bad LA.

    I recommend you direct your anger back at enforcing color schemes and brown-grass violations at your HOA board meeting.

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