SoCal Gas pipeline work prompts worries of Placerita Creek flooding

Above-ground signs warn of subterranean gas lines at the edge of Placerita Creek in Newhall. Austin Dave/The Signal

Several Newhall residents living alongside Placerita Creek have expressed concern over the potential for increased flooding after recent pipeline work by Southern California Gas Co. that drew a notice from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board informing the gas company that a portion of the work violated the Clean Water Act.

In response, the city of Santa Clarita has reached out to the agency for answers.

In October, resident Kevin Ward received a letter from SoCal Gas announcing a three-week project on a high-pressure gas transmission pipeline that was exposed near Placerita Canyon Road and Golden Oak Lane, which runs through Ward’s property.

The purpose of the work falls in line with the company’s “efforts to maintain safe and reliable service,” which includes “doing maintenance work on our existing transmission pipelines in Santa Clarita,” according to SoCal Gas Public Affairs Manager Marisol Espinoza.

The work included installing articulated concrete revetment mats over sections of pipelines in the creek to safeguard them from erosion, she added. In the letter, the gas company said it “will restore the workspace to as near its original condition and appearance as is reasonably possible.”

But residents, such as Ward and neighbor Andre Alaverdyan, are not satisfied with the results.

“SoCal Gas has essentially eliminated Placerita Creek at Golden Oak,” said Ward. “They put truckloads of fill on the creek bottom and concrete mats on the top. Placerita Creek is known for its flooding and rescues when the creek was 7 to 8 feet deep — its original, natural channel. We only have 4 feet now. If we get a major storm again, it’s going to be devastating.”

Alaverdyan, who lives adjacent to Ward, said he’s worried about the lasting effects of the pipeline work. “I’m just concerned that over time (the creek) will fill up so much that my canal is not going to work anymore. If (the floodwater) keeps pulling over here, it’s just going to tear through my front yard.”

Throughout the winter season, with an estimated 28 inches of recent rainfall, residents in the area have noticed how floodwater quickly ponds and has moved farther up closer to their properties. Rain is expected to return Wednesday, with more wet weather forecasted for next week.

In an October letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, SoCal Gas said it would excavate a 3-foot-deep trench, where the “pipelines will then be excavated and fully exposed.” Sand bedding would then be added within the trench and 28 revetment mats and earthen fill would be placed directly over the pipelines “to protect it from further erosion and damage.”

During an inspection by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board on Nov. 30, Regional Board staff found that SoCal Gas “failed to install stabilization/erosion control measures,” as well as sediment-control measures. A notice of violation for “failure to comply with the Clean Water Act” followed in late December as a result. Among a list of requirements the gas company has been tasked with is to “mitigate water quality concerns caused by the project, including downcutting and ponding on Golden Oak Lane following rain events.”

Espinosa said that, since the gas company received the notice, “We have worked to demonstrate compliance in restoring impacted areas, put in additional erosion control and stabilization measures as suggested by the RWQCB, and are working to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the RWQCB.”

On Tuesday, city officials said city staff has sent out a letter to SoCal Gas to address concerns that the City Council raised after Ward spoke to council members during their regular meeting on March 12 to ask for help.

Among the questions council members asked were if the pipeline work has allowed for the habitat that existed before to return. They also asked for an update on what city staff is doing.

Espinosa, who was present at the meeting, said she would follow up with answers. City Manager Ken Striplin said the city is working with SoCal Gas and the regional board “to ensure that the work that was done is in compliance with the permits. Both of those agencies have jurisdiction over the matter but we have tried to facilitate a resolution to Mr. Ward’s issues and the creek.”

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