Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 10 of 51

city of angels BETWEEN A ROCK AND A WET PLACE Weighing the options for Silver Lake's reservoir dilemma By Tony Cella Bottom photo: Tony Cella Top photo: Michael Locke T wo kites fluttered against the backdrop of the blue sky, an organic reflection of the Silver Lake Reservoir sparkling below. The kite fliers, and others out enjoying the day, frolicked on a grassy area next to one of the L.A. Department of Water and Power's next construction sites. In order to comply with current federal regulations against open-air potable water reservoirs, the department is getting ready to drain the water from this lovely basin in order to install the next section of a pipeline that ultimately will extend from the LA Aqueduct to underground reservoirs planned for Griffith Park. According to a department spokesperson, construction will begin in late 2014 or early '15 and continue for 18 months, turning the reservoir's awardwinning jogging path into an eyesore for at least a portion of that time. Cost for the entire project is anticipated to be about $40 million. Draining the reservoir was proposed as an alternative to digging up more than a mile of West Silverlake Drive, a major neighborhood thoroughfare, which would worsen already congested local traffic. The proposed alternative will nevertheless involve digging up about 1,500 feet of West Silverlake Drive to install the pipe, in addition to de-watering the basin. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council voted in favor of draining the reservoir over risking extra traffic jams. Some residents have voiced concerns that the prolonged drain and construction will spew dust into the air, risking the health and recreational opportunities of neighborhood residents. Dust control is a planned element of the pipeline replacement project, countered Susan Rowghani, director of water engineering and technical services at LADWP. To keep dust at a minimum, crews will be told to use water trucks, soil binders and other methods to control particulate matter, but can this be any match for LA's intermittent Santa Ana winds? Pablo Castillo, a student living less than a mile from the future construction site, uses the jogging path almost daily. He was worried trucks and equipment in and around the basin will disrupt recreational activity and degrade the quality of life in the neighborhood. "The construction will make it difficult to go to the grocery store, go to school, and for residents to have access to their homes," he said, pausing amidst a series of push-ups. "If there's more dust in the air, it'll be bad for joggers with asthma." Although local residents near earlier parts of the project complained of extraordinary sound decibels and dust, spokeswoman Jane Galbraith said she hadn't heard of health concerns regarding the project. "The reservoir is lined with asphalt on the sides. The bottom is silt," she said. "In terms of particulate matter, that's the first I've heard of it." Rowghani also noted that, "Driving will be prohibited on portions of the reservoir that are not being accessed," as further dust abatement. The project will go on because it has to, so rather than resist, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who is on the board of the neighborhood council, proposes that the community seize the opportunity to "re-envision possibilities for the public and ecological space [the community] could create at the Silver Lake Reservoir Park." His call is for "a new paradigm" for public land use. If the community must endure the travails of construction, it should be redirected for broader benefit to both neighbors and the land. —To contact the neighborhood council and participate in a community conversation, email Board@silverlakenc.org. For the country department of public health, email phps@ph.lacounty. gov. DWP accepts comments through their website's contact form at www.ladwp.com. august / september 2013 11

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