[KHTS] – Los Angeles County officials are working to restore the water supply for Bouquet Canyon residents, although they likely will have to wait several weeks to see their taps flow again at normal levels.
Dozens of residents’ wells went dry after the Department of Water and Power restricted water from a creek that supplies the wells.
Rain storms from the mid 2000s caused Bouquet Creek to silt up, DWP officials said in a statement, which means if the DWP didn’t restrict water flow, it would create an unsafe situation.
“We’ve been working with the DWP to get them to release more water,” Vizcarra said.
DWP officials refuse to release the water until the stream bed is cleaned out because the water creates a serious liability for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
“When water is released at more than just a minimal amount, water spills out onto Bouquet Canyon Road causing a public safety hazard for cars, motorcycles and bicyclists,” according to a statement from Jim Yannotta, manager of L.A. Aqueduct for LADWP.
For 50 years, county resources cleaned out the culverts near the dam, which prevented the hazardous situation, but changes made about 10 years ago made that no longer possible, said Edel Vizcarra, planning and public works deputy for Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
“You have all these rules that make it difficult to do anything,” Vizcarra said, explaining that county officials had to work with multiple agencies to address the urgent need of residents.
The creek in question is also believed to be a home for the unarmored three spined stickleback, which is an endangered species. Concern for the natural habitat is one of the issues that must be addressed, Vizcarra said.
There are two short-term solutions being worked on, Vizcarra said.
The county’s Office of Emergency Management is drafting a resolution to declare an emergency situation for area residents, he said.
This gives the U.S. Forestry Service some justification for expediting county requests, but it by no means provides the county a green light to clean the culverts, officials said.
Because county officials can only operate on the federal land with the use of permits, federal officials can also mandate mitigation measures that county officials would have to follow in order to clean the sediment out of the area, Vizcarra said.
The cleaning project also is expected to cost millions of dollars, he said, not including mitigation measures that county officials would have to follow if the USFS gives the county permission to operate in the area.
Another short term fix, which would likely take at least six weeks, is the installation of gates that would halt access to the road while water is restored to the area. The gates could then be opened once water levels are restored to a healthier level.
About one-quarter of the canyon’s residents residents rely on wells for their water supply, said Ron Rambin, a residents who’s lived in the area for nearly five decades.
One promising note for residents is that Forestry officials have been amenable to the gate talks, Vizcarra said.
An official with Congressman Buck McKeon’s office, which has also been working on the situation, said the plan to fabricate and install the gates would likely take six to eight weeks.
But even that is a short-term fix, Vizcarra said, and possibilities for a long-term solution, such as raising the road, are still being evaluated.
“We haven’t really devised a plan for what a long-term solution would be,” Vizcarra said. “That sediment will come back again and we’re going to have this exact same problem.”