Alternative method to remove canyon debris suggested
Written By Becky Oskin
Staff Writer, Pasadena Star News
ALTADENA — The battle over how to restore Rubio Canyon’s stretch of sparkling waterfalls, now buried in tons of rocky construction debris, appears far from over.
Two appeals have been filed with the Forest Service protesting the agency’s decision to build a temporary road to truck out the granite rock through the canyon.
Regional Forester Jack Blackwell, who is based in Vallejo, will consider the appeals and issue a response within 45 days of Oct. 20, the end of the initial appeal period, said Ranger Steve Bear. “He will either uphold our decision or remand the decision back for more work,’ Bear said.
And Blackwell’s verdict also can be appealed to the Forest Service’s Washington headquarters. The appeal letters come from those closest to the proposed project homeowner Heinz Ellersieck, who lives at the canyon mouth, and Rubio Canon Land and Water Association, the small, nonprofit water company that collects water from Rubio Canyon for about 3,000 customers in Altadena.
The Forest Service has said it plans to charge Rubio Water for the costs of cleanup. Contractors hired by Rubio Water caused the environmental problem while building a ledge to stabilize and support a water pipe damaged by landslides during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The 1998 pipe project was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and initially approved by the Forest Service.
Rubio Water’s appeal asks the Forest Service to consider another cleanup method, one devised by retiree Norman Brooks, an emeritus Caltech engineering professor and Altadena resident. Brooks’ research on hydrology is cited in the Environmental Assessment prepared for Rubio Canyon. Brooks proposed leveling the debris pile with a bulldozer and letting nature take care of the removing the rock during periodic floods. This would expose the waterfalls more quickly than simply letting the debris pile stay in place, but minimize the impact on the canyon, Brooks said in his letter to the Forest Service.
“This uses nature to our advantage instead of fighting it,’ said Jan Fahey, a registered engineer and president of Rubio Water’s Board of Directors. “I think it causes less environmental damage overall and less disruption of private property,’ she said.