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Bouquet Canyon residents appeal to state

Posted: July 19, 2014 9:21 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2014 9:21 p.m.

Months after their wells ran dry due to a bureaucratic impasse, Bouquet Canyon residents have banded together to appeal to the state — while agencies involved point fingers at each other, several sides say.

“One official blames the other and that official blames another official, and someone in there blames a fish — it’s a bunch of crap,” Bouquet Canyon resident Willy Guizar said.

Guizar is one of more than 100 Bouquet Canyon residents left without water that’s supposed to be released from the reservoir at the top of the canyon to replenish their groundwater supply. They have a contract that says it must be done. But it’s not being done this year.

Guizar said he has to pay an Acton water delivery service to have water trucked to his home site.

LARC Ranch, which houses developmentally disabled adults at its 65-acre facility in Bouquet Canyon, has had to truck in nearly 2 million gallons of water at a cost of $43,000, said LARC spokesman Tim Whyte. LARC officials have urged government leaders from several agencies to resolve their long-simmering dispute, said Whyte.

Meantime, representatives of the agencies have met. And met again. But the impasse remains.

Multiple agencies

Part of the problem is the multitude of agencies involved in the issue. The reservoir at the top of Bouquet Canyon belongs to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The city of Los Angeles, however, is not the sole claimant to the water. A major water agency in Ventura County has a claim on the water, as do the residents of Bouquet Canyon.

The Bouquet Canyon Creek bed that the water is supposed to traverse to get to the residents belongs to the U.S. Forest Service. The creek needs to be unclogged so the water can run down without rolling over Bouquet Canyon Road and causing traffic hazards and erosion.

But environmental regulators say the Forest Service habitat of the unarmored threespine stickleback can’t be disturbed. It’s a protected species. Forest Service officials say that ties their hands.

At the bottom of the canyon is Los Angeles County unincorporated land and a few hundred residents whose wells have run dry or dangerously low.

Finger pointing

In February, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency allowing for gates to be built on Bouquet Canyon Road so the winding roadway could be shut down periodically to release water to downstream dwellers.

What they really need, according to Edel Vizcarra, planning deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, is permission from the U.S. Forest Service to perform the necessary cleanup on federal land and remove the silt permanently.

But the Forest Service says it can’t do anything due stickleback protections.

In May, U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon met with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. At Tidwell’s urging, representatives from the various agencies got together and met.

During the meeting, at least one attendee blamed Los Angeles County for not having a clear work agenda.

“In my opinion, it is the county that is unclear about what type of work they want to accomplish on the streambed,” said Elizabeth Delgado, field representative for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Not so, said Vizcarra.

“We seem to be the only ones trying to find a solution,” he said last week. “We know exactly what has to be done.


“Every time we get together they (U.S. Forest Service officials) gives us a new direction, asking the county to go in,” he said. “Every time we suggest how we can eliminate red tape, they come up with something new.

“We got the crews. We got the equipment, and we’re ready to go,” Vizcarra said.

Sherry Rollman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, referred all comment about the impasse to McKeon’s Santa Clarita Valley representative Morris Thomas.

“We have our working group on this issue and he is our facilitator,” Rollman said, “so that we’re all consistent on what we have agreed.”

“I will be participating in a meeting with our legislative team in D.C. in an hour or so to discuss our next step,” Thomas said. “There is something coming.”

Bouquet Canyon residents have banded together in their waterless plight, calling themselves the Bouquet Canyon Network.

In response to the state’s announced emergency water conservation measures, Bouquet Canyon resident Roger A. Haring fired off a letter to state water regulators, appealing to the state to help out in the ongoing water impasse in Bouquet Canyon.

“These contractual ‘watershed releases’ should be upheld and guaranteed by current law,” he said, referring to canyon residents’ “assurance” they would get water from the reservoir.

“It is unfortunate that these current laws are not being upheld. Why?”


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