The concerns of inconvenienced Bouquet Creek residents have been heard loud and clear, prompting county officials to open Bouquet Canyon Road to traffic and shut it down only when it rains.
No firm date has been set for the unlocking of the gates that now bar access to Bouquet Canyon Road, however, officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works assured the county’s board of supervisors Tuesday they are working to open the road on days of no rain.
“The upshot of what was said at the (Los Angeles County) Board of Supervisors is that we are working towards reopening the road,” Public Works spokesman Ryan Alsop told The Signal Tuesday.
On Oct, 27, Public Works officials closed gates on Bouquet Canyon Road in anticipation of a rain they feared would flood the creek and make the road unsafe.
The weekend closure became a six-month closure.
Bouquet Creek residents, angered over the closure, met in Leona Valley Monday night where Public Works officials announced the plan to reopen the gates on dry days, Alsop said.
“We heard that the people are obviously inconvenienced by the closure, both residents and businesses, and we got that,” Alsop said of Monday’s meeting, which he described as a “packed house” of more than 100 people.
“We explained the decisions for why it was closed and why it remains closed,” he said. “But, as we go forward, the understanding is to reopen the road when there’s no rain and no rain forecast, and with the understanding that the road will be closed in a rain event.”
On Tuesday, Deputy Director of Public Works Mark Pestrella provided supervisors with a presentation explaining the department’s reasons for shutting down the road, Alsop said.
Pestrella shared some of the key concerns voiced by Bouquet Creek residents such as halted mail delivery, spotty trash collection and non-existent protocol for first responders in the case of an emergency.
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who asked Public Works officials to explain the road closure to the board, asked Pestrella about mail service.
And then he asked the one question Bouquet Creek residents want to know more than anything: When will the road be reopened?
Although no firm date was offered, Public Works officials are committed, Alsop said, to reopening the road according to the “dry day” conditions as soon as possible.
Bouquet Canyon Road is prone to flooding due to the buildup of silt by the road.
County officials have been wrestling with ways of removing the silt and repairing the road for the past three years.
But since the vulnerable section of road runs through federal land, workers need a special permit from the federal government to clear the creek of debris.
Since they cannot obtain the permit, they cannot remove the silt and debris, and were compelled to close the road.
“We cannot remediate the area, which means we cannot stabilize the road,” Public Works spokesman Steve Frasher said when the gates were closed.
This flood-prone section of Bouquet Canyon Road is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is operated under permit by LA County Public Works.
At the center of frustrated efforts to remove the silt and repair the road are federal rules protecting the habitat of an endangered fish called the unarmored threespine stickleback.
In 2004, after pressure from environmentalists, officials at the U.S. Forest Service took steps to protect the stickleback’s home in Bouquet Creek. The canyon falls mostly within Angeles National Forest land, so USFS officials followed federal guidelines for the protection of endangered critters and preserved the stickleback’s habitat by leaving the creek undisturbed.
Doing nothing may have saved the home of the unarmored threespine stickleback, but it also halted county work crews from routinely clearing the Bouquet Creek bed where the fish lives so that it doesn’t spill over onto, and flood, Bouquet Canyon Road.
With annual cleaning brought to a halt, the creek bed began to silt up. That process was accelerated when the Buckweed Fire raged through the area in 2007, destroying vegetation and sending debris and sediment pouring into the creek.
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