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Insult to injury: Bouquet Canyon gates closed for 5 days

Residents, some without water, faced 44-mile detour to get home

Posted: August 18, 2014 6:44 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2014 6:44 p.m.
A construction worker closes the gates on Bouquet Canyon Road. The road was reopened to vehicles Monday after a five-day closures. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze  A construction worker closes the gates on Bouquet Canyon Road. The road was reopened to vehicles Monday after a five-day closures. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze 
A construction worker closes the gates on Bouquet Canyon Road. The road was reopened to vehicles Monday after a five-day closures. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze 

Scores of Bouquet Canyon residents frustrated over the five-day closure of their only access road can expect similar inconveniences in the future as water officials work to further reduce a “trickle” causing road problems, county sources said Monday.

Bouquet Canyon Road was re-opened late Monday afternoon, said Jim Yannotta, Aquaduct Manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owns the Bouquet Reservoir.

“We’re trying to release water in amounts that does not collect on the roadway,” he said Monday.

On Thursday, however, that is precisely what happened, prompting the five-day road closure.

For months, Bouquet residents have been calling on local and federal officials to give them the water they normally receive from Bouquet Canyon Reservoir.

However, concern about the safety of Bouquet Canyon Road, which runs next to the creek in Bouquet Canyon, prompted Department of Water and Power officials to reduce the normal water allotment to a trickle.

Because the stream has become silted up over the year, there is little difference between the bottom of the stream bed and the road level. Where once a relatively deep canyon allowed the roar of water down the creek bed, now a small amount of water refuses to remain in the channel and instead flows over the road, creating hazardous driving conditions.

Thursday’s trickle did just that, prompting county workers to shut down a 3.6-mile section of the road by closing recently installed gates near Big Oaks Lodge.

Now residents can expect less water than before as water officials wrestle over an amount of water that can be released without collecting on the roadway.

The extended road closure is not something residents want to see again.

“I feel bad for the people who live up there,” said Jack Kasten, who lives near LARC Ranch — one of the largest institutions inconvenienced by the ongoing reduction of reservoir water. “They (had) to drive through Green Valley just to get home,” he said.

The circuitous route from Santa Clarita to Bouquet Creek through Green Valley and Spunky Canyon is a 44-mile detour for residents.

“I first noticed the gates closed when I came home Thursday at 9 p.m.,” Kasten said. “And I thought it was odd that it was closed. Then I saw it closed Saturday and I thought it was really odd.”

“Public Works did close the gates,” said Edel Vizcarra, planning deputy for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “Some of the water that they released was part of the regular flow and it made its way onto the road.”

“DWP is aware of the problem and is dialing down the water it releases,” Vizcarra said, explaining “dial down” as a further reduction in water flow. That means residents downstream will see even less water. For some, wells have already dried up.

Business loss
Hitan Golek, who runs the Big Oaks Lodge - the only business on Bouquet Canyon Road - says he lost money every day the road stayed closed.

“Somebody from Public Works handed my manager a card and said, ‘We’ll be closing the gates because they’re releasing water’ and that was five days ago,” Golek told The Signal Monday.

“This is unbelievable,” he said. “I talked to people who have lived here a long time and they said they never had this happen - even with heavy snow and rain.

“What if one of these residents has a heart attack? I might be losing money but somebody might lose a life,” he said.


Government officials from Los Angeles County to Congress say they have been working on the problem, but environmental regulations prohibit dredging the creek bed without extensive permitting and environmental review.

Los Angeles County declared a local emergency on behalf of Bouquet Canyon residents on Feb. 25. The declaration called for a temporary solution: building gates at the top and the bottom of the canyon so the road can be closed at times, allowing safe release of more water to downstream residents.

The two gates on Bouquet Canyon Road were installed in April, but the flood of water never followed.

LARC Ranch, which is located on Bouquet Canyon Road and provides programs for developmentally disabled adults, began trucking in water earlier this summer after one well failed and another ran dangerously low.

The ranch has been forced to import more than 2.9 million gallons of water at a cost of $67,000 since Bouquet Creek water slowed to a trickle, spokesman Tim Whyte said Monday.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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