Bouquet Canyon Residents Hope Federal Pressure Can Ease Water, Well Concern
Federal and county officials are meeting Wednesday to find out if they help turn the tap back on for a growing group of Bouquet Canyon residents who have been watching their wells go dry.
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The problem has been a bureaucratic circle of responsibility, according to longtime Bouquet Canyon resident Ron Rambin; however, he said he’s been encouraged by the recent involvement of Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, who met with area residents last month.
“Right now, (the county has) people surveying the canyon for areas that need to be cleaned,” said Rambin, who’s lived in the canyon for nearly 50 years. “There’s still a required permission from the Forest Service, which has yet to be granted; we’re hopeful that the county and (McKeon’s) office will push the Forest Service to grant permission to clean the creek.”
Forest Service officials did not respond to numerous phone calls for this story.
The water supply in the creek that contractually supplies wells in the area has had water restricted to it by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the last several years, according to officials.
And the restrictions have caused area residents’ wells to gradually dry out. The problem has affected dozens of residents, Rambin said, with 10 more of the private wells going dry since December. More residents are threatened each day as the problem trickles downstream, so to speak.
There is an agreement with United Water to release a certain flow of water from its Bouquet Reservoir into Bouquet Creek, according to an LADWP official statement.
"Unfortunately, rain storms from the mid 2000s caused Bouquet Creek to silt up," according to a statement from Jim Yannotta, manager of L.A. Aqueduct for LADWP. "As a result, 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."
LADWP is attempting to work with the U.S. Forest Service who owns the property where Bouquet Creek has silted up and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see how Bouquet Creek can be cleaned out in an environmentally safe manner, along with potential roadway improvements by L.A. County, so that higher flows can be released to the creek, Yannotta stated.
Workers with the Los Angeles County Road Maintenance District used to perform regular maintenance of the roads, said Dave Caddick, a senior engineer for the Los Angeles County Road Maintenance District 5, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
Starting in 2005, which was when the area was declared a disaster in response to flooding, county have been told they need permission from the U.S. Forestry Service. Forestry Service officials said county officials have not provided the right documents necessary for the USFS to grant permission.
Once the area residents contacted McKeon’s office, the congressman got involved to see what could be done to speed up the process for residents, said Morris Thomas, a district representative for McKeon.
McKeon’s office is working with county officials in an effort to prepare a special request, in light of the dire water-supply situation for local residents, Thomas said. It came as a result of McKeon’s meeting with residents, rangers from the Acton station and representatives from county Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office.
“The county was going to prepare a request to the Forest Service based on the view that an emergency situation existed in that area,” Thomas said.
Going forward, officials are also going to discuss a more permanent solution for the flooding and road concerns, Thomas said.
"(The meeting) is going to be about the condition of the creek, and what steps can be taken to re-establish the flow in the creek, and the placement and construction of the gates," said Jeff Harkins, engineer for Los Angeles County district for road maintenance in District 5.
There are currently two alternatives being discussed. A series of gates, would allow officials to temporarily block the roads, making it safe for the water to flow. The gates could then be opened after the supply issue was addressed. The other would be the cleaning of the culverts.
While the gates represent a more permanent solution, there’s a pressing need for the cleaning, based on residents concerns, which is why the request for cleaning is also being performed, Thomas said.
There’s about 800 people who live in the Bouquet Canyon area, and about 200-300 of them rely on private wells, said Rambin, who’s been researching the issue extensively.
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