• woman and mean try to pass a creek

      Hikers at a stream in the Arroyo Seco area

      The Arroyo Seco Foundation, Pasadena Audubon Society, and three prominent local residents have challenged Pasadena Water & Power Department’s (PWP) project to increase local water pumping.

      The Arroyo Seco Canyon Project (ASCP) received a go-ahead in a January 6th hearing by a Pasadena Zoning Hearing Officer who certified the Environmental Impact Report and proposed mitigation program for the project at the mouth of the Arroyo Seco as it descends from the San Gabriel Mountain near Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

      The team challenging the PWP program includes Tim Brick, the managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, veteran water engineer Ken Kules, Hahamongna Watchdog Hugh Bowles, former Environmental Advisory Commissioner Morey Wolfson, and Mark Hunter, Conservation Director of the Pasadena Audubon Society.

      The $10 million project includes a five-foot dam to divert additional water from the Arroyo Seco stream and send it to expanded spreading basins on the east side of Hahamongna Watershed Park. The enlarged facilities would entitle PWP to pump additional water from the Raymond Groundwater Basin that underlies the area.

      On Tuesday the critics filed an appeal of the Hearing Officer’s determination that will block project approval at least until it goes to a hearing before the Zoning Appeals Board and eventually to the Pasadena City Council. “We believe that the issues at stake are of such significance that they should be considered by the City Council as part of a broader review of Pasadena’s water program,” said Tim Brick. “Pasadena needs to face up to the serious water crisis that now confronts it.”

      The critics are concerned that the project’s Environmental Impact Report and the Hearing Officer failed to consider or respond to some important detrimental aspects of the project based on its impacts on local groundwater levels and on habitat and fish in Hahamongna Watershed Park and the Arroyo Seco.

      Ken Kules, a retired water engineer who worked for many years for the Metropolitan Water District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said:

      The Raymond Groundwater Basin is an ‘invisible’ but extremely valuable resource that helps support Pasadena’s vibrant community and economy. That invisibility masks the fact that much needs to be done to arrest the persistent decline of the groundwater table.

      The public is being told that the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project will help to do that, but the reality is that it will combine with the effects of climate change to accelerate the decline of the groundwater levels.

      Kules developed a hydrologic model that demonstrates that Pasadena’s program would lower water levels in the Monk Hill subarea of the Raymond Basin by more than one foot a year, but the Final Environmental Impact Report, released by PWP two days before Christmas, failed to consider the importance of ASCP’s impact on groundwater levels, as did Hearing Officer Paul Novak in the January 6th hearing.

      Other issues the Hearing Office failed to consider or respond to include the benefits of using a living, natural stream to percolate the stream flow rather than expanding the massive, denuded spreading basins in Hahamongna Watershed Park. California Fish and Game Code also requires that dams and diversion facilities of this sort need to provide a minimal environmental flow for fish and aquatic species in the dry period, but the ASCP begs off on fulfilling that requirement until steelhead trout return from the Pacific Ocean, something that has not been possible for the last one hundred years.

      A key objective of the critics was to ensure that a final decision on the ASCP should be part of the broad policy discussion regarding the 25-year Water System and Resources Plan that the City Council will consider in March. That Plan outlines an extensive series of programs and facilities that will cost $425 million and sets a priority on expanding the use of groundwater, ignoring its steady decline in the last century.

      “The long-term health of the Raymond Basin is the biggest water challenge facing Pasadena,” said Tim Brick, former chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “The basin has declined more than 350 feet over the past one hundred years. Pasadena needs to work with the Raymond Basin Management Board to establish a program to stabilize and replenish the groundwater levels for a resilient future.”

      The Arroyo Seco Foundation is circulating an online petition which sums up the views of the appellants and has been signed by over 300 local residents.


      Source: arroyoseco.org

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