Written by Sonya Geis, Pasadena Star News Staff Writer
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — A local environmentalist turned up the pressure Tuesday in his years-long battle against an Altadena water company.
Paul Ayers, an attorney and hiker, sent letters of intent to sue to Rubio Canon Land and Water Association and the U.S. Forest Service. The threat is the latest Ayers tactic in an ongoing effort to force the nonprofit water company to better protect the scenic wilderness of Rubio Canyon, which lies within the boundaries of the Angeles National Forest.
Two water company actions are at issue. One is the practice of diverting water from Rubio Creek to provide water to 3,000 Altadena homes. The other is the stalled cleanup of tons of rocks that have filled the canyon since a water company blasting project went awry in 1998.
“They’ve turned Rubio Canyon into basically a desert, unless there’s an extreme event like this year” with heavy rains, Ayers said. “I want a full, complete, neutral survey as to what the environmental cost of water extraction is, and whether it is cost effective. And I want a place at the table for someone besides the Forest Service and the water company.”
In his letters, Ayers accused the water company of violating the federal Clean Water Act, and alleged both the company and the Forest Service violated the Solid Waste Disposal Act. He threatened to initiate lawsuits on behalf of a group called Save the Altadena Trails and two individual hikers.
No representatives of the Rubio Canon Land and Water Association could be reached for comment.
Board President Jan Fahey did not return calls to her office. Rubio Canyon Land and Water Association is a private group with water rights that date back to the 19th century. Since the organization formed, Rubio Canyon has become a part of the Angeles National Forest. The water company holds a special-use permit to operate on forest land.
Jody Noiron, supervisor of the Angeles National Forest, said she had not seen the letters from Ayers and so could not comment on the specific allegations. However, she said, “The Forest Service recognizes the Rubio Canon Land and Water company as having a legal right to be in the canyon. We do not have an issue with that.”
Ayers said he hopes the threat of a lawsuit will be enough to galvanize the water company into a compromise agreement. “I’m done being an advocate. Now I’m in lawyer mode,” he said. “Usually things don’t change until it really starts to hit the pocketbook.”