Rare bird, permits delay Whittaker cleanup

City of Santa Clarita officials revealed this week that the multi-jurisdictional task force has scheduled regular meetings on the cleanup throughout the year until November 2019.
Citing evidence of a bird hardly anyone ever sees and dealing with permit paperwork they see all too much of, officials supervising the cleanup of the Whittaker-Bermite site said their year-end cleanup target date has now been pushed into 2019. How far into this year will the cleanup of nearly 1,000 acres at the heart of the Santa Clarita Valley take? City of Santa Clarita officials revealed this week that the multi-jurisdictional task force has scheduled regular meetings on the cleanup throughout the year until November 2019. The task force includes all stakeholders in the project such as: the city of Santa Clarita, SCV Water Agency, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and Meggitt-USA Inc., representing the Whittaker Corp. Task force meetings are scheduled March 6, July 10 and Nov. 13, each date being a Wednesday between 3 and 5 p.m., in the Century Conference Room at Santa Clarita City Hall. At each of the last few multi-jurisdictional meetings, cleanup officials confidently projected the cleanup could be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. Asked this week if the cleanup on Whittaker Bermite was complete, the answer was “no.” “But, we are making steady progress toward completion,” said Hassan Amini, project manager with the cleanup firm Amec Foster Wheeler. Year-end was the target cleanup date until cleanup crews hit a snag when a biologist found a nest belonging to the threatened California gnatcatcher. With that discovery, bulldozers ground to a halt, work stopped and the completion date was pushed back. “We had projected that most of the soil cleanup activities would be completed by the end of 2018,” Amini said. “The gnatcatcher sighting and permit delays have affected our completion date,” he said, citing frustrating efforts to obtain permits from various agencies including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, “We should be able to complete our soil remediation work within the first three to four months of this new year, if we do not encounter an intense rainy spring,” he said. Once the cleanup is done, the 996 hilly acres at the center of the city could become a site for potential development or use as open space, or some combined use. “Technically, once the soil cleanup is done to DTSC’s satisfaction and approval, there should be no environmental hazard or restriction for the public,” Amini said. “The physical hazards, such as steep slopes, uneven grounds, wildlife, snakes, ticks…etc., will be the remaining hazards, just like any undeveloped property,” he said. “However, being a private property, access to the property needs to be obtained from the property owner.” The California gnatcatcher, according to environmentalists manning the website Paloverdes.com, is a songbird about 4 inches long that survives in coastal sage scrub habitats in California. They are highly territorial and mate for life. Once paired, gnatcatchers do not normally migrate beyond a 1- to 2-acre territory all year.

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