Thu, Aug

Another Pet Project ALERT: The $140 Million Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir

LA WATCHDOG - The June draft of the Environmental Impact Report for the Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir Water Quality Improvement Project essentially recommends the construction of a buried concrete covered reservoir at a cost of $140 million to meet EPA dictated water quality standards and continue to maintain local water service to 450,000 people on the Westside.

A secondary objective is to restore the natural character of the impacted area.

The Stone Canyon Reservoir Complex is a 750 acre parcel owned by DWP, located just south of Mulholland Drive between Beverly Glen Boulevard and Roscomare Road.  It is home to the 138 million gallon capacity Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir and the Lower Stone Canyon Reservoir, a 3.4 billion gallon reservoir that has now been taken out of service as a drinking water source as part of a system-wide initiative to comply with EPA and California Department of Public Health drinking water quality requirements related to the 1989 Surface Water Treatment Rule.

The buried reservoir alternative is projected to cost $140 million, requires the movement of 905,000 cubic yards of earth, and is expected to take four to five years to complete.

Alternatively, there is the downplayed Floating Cover Alternative that is projected to cost only $35 million, involves minimal movement of dirt, and will be completed within 18 months.

Furthermore, the impact on the local environment during the construction will be significantly less because the floating cover alternative will involve about 8,300 Off-Site Truck Trips compared to over 70,000 trips for the buried reservoir alternative.

Once again, we need to ask if the Ratepayers should have to foot the $105 million differential that is the responsibility of the City, its Department of Recreation and Parks, and the local residents.  And, as was the answer with respect to the $85 million differential for the Elysian Park Reservoir, the answer is not no, but HELL NO.

It is hard to justify this $105 million differential.  

If the 700,000 square foot floating cover is replaced by natural surroundings, the cost is over $6.5 million for each of the 16 acres.

And if 16,000 daytime only visitors per year use the proposed system of pedestrian trails, that equates to over $6,500 per visitor, a rather high price of admission.  

And this does not even factor in the significantly higher risk of fire, no minor concern to the residents of Bel Air when you consider the utter devastation caused to this canyon by the November 1961 historical fire storm.  

If the buried reservoir alternatives for both Upper Stone Canyon and Elysian Park are approved, the cost of the almost $200 million incremental, debt financed expenditures will cost in the range of $20 million a year.  This amount will essentially double since DWP needs to protect its credit rating and its ability to borrow.  Overall, these two pet projects will increase rates by about 5%.

That is in addition to the projected 22% increase over the next two and an half years.

Of course, we might be lucky considering the case of New York City where water rates have increased by 134% since 2002 because of the “truly burdensome” and “almost entirely useless” regulations forced on the City by the Environmental Protection Agency without any cost/benefit analysis.  Needless to say, New York Mayor Bloomberg and his Environmental Commissioner Cas Holloway are not happy campers.  

The approval of the buried reservoir alternative for Upper Stone Canyon will also set a horrible precedent as it will green light pet projects in every Council District, all on the Ratepayers’ dime. This politically induced raid on DWP will spread faster than the wind-swept Bel Air fire.  

The preference of the very expensive buried reservoir alternatives for both Upper Stone Canyon and the Elysian Park raises the issue of the roles and motives of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners and City Hall in pushing this very expensive alternative, especially since the DWP staff initially recommended the floating cover alternative several years ago.

And suspicions are further fueled when the DWP presentation at the July 12 public hearing on the Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir did not address the issue of overall cost and the impact on Ratepayers of the alternatives. (Link)

Are Ratepayers once again being treated like mushrooms: “buried” in the dark and “covered” with manure?  

Before any rate increase is considered, Ratepayers have the absolute right to know what alternative is selected for both the Upper Stone Canyon and Elysian Park Reservoirs.  After all, it is our money.  

No wonder we need a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of the DWP on a timely and continuous basis.

NO Ratepayers Advocate, NO Rate Increase.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: [email protected] ) –cw

Tags: water quality improvement, Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir, ratepayer advocate, Elysian Park Reservoir, DWP, Mayor Bloomberg, Environmental Impact Report

Vol 9 Issue 56
Pub: July 15, 2011