Council members urge staff to take faster action on Placerita Canyon pipeline concerns

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

The Santa Clarita City Council urged city staff to expedite efforts to address issues connected with pipeline work in Placerita Canyon by Southern California Gas Co., which has left residents in the area worried about potential increased flooding.

“I think it’s really the time now to take a look,” said Councilwoman Laurene Weste. “Don’t wait for those people to be flooded out and a disaster. We don’t need to wait for that; we know it’s a problem.”  

Her direction came Tuesday during the City Council’s regular meeting, and was supported by Councilman Cameron Smyth, who first brought forth the conversation during council comment.

“I know it’s an ongoing issue,” Smyth said, “and even though we’re likely out of any other heavy rains for the year, the concerns about flooding still, I think, persist.”

Concerns from the council and residents near the worksite area stem from a SoCal Gas maintenance project on a high-pressure transmission pipeline by Placerita Canyon Road and Golden Oak Lane. The project consisted of installing concrete revetment mats over the pipeline in Placerita Creek to avoid erosion, and work was meant to “restore the workspace to as near its original condition and appearance as is reasonably possible,” according to the company.  

But residents say otherwise about the project on the FEMA flood zone. Worried about future rainfall, some homeowners have been paying close attention to changes to the creek’s depth.

Among them is Linda Tarnoff, who said she has noticed that “the sandy creek bottom has risen by at least a foot all throughout the canyon, not just in the project area.”

Kevin Ward, who has provided the city with an extensive amount of material, such as photographs of the creek before and after the project, recently hired a licensed surveyor to conduct a topography study to further confirm data from a SoCal Gas survey, indicating that the creek’s upstream elevation has changed by a 30-inch difference.

Both surveys show that the creek has a current elevation of 1216.3. SoCal Gas’ survey in late November shows that the creek’s original elevation was at 1213.8, indicating a difference of 2.5 feet.

“SoCal Gas has now raised the flood zone with many feet of concrete mats,” said Ward. “It’s backed up with sand to match a new, higher creek bottom. The creek used to be 7 feet deep and now it’s a little over 4 feet before it goes over.”  

City Engineer Mike Hennawy told the City Council on Tuesday, “We’ve been working continuously with the gas company and also the Water Quality Control Board to address concerns of the council and residents.”

He added that SoCal Gas has hired an engineer to conduct a hydrology study to see if the project has any impacts on the floodplain and will “continue working with them and, whenever we receive these studies, we’re going to review them and provide an update to the council.”

SoCal Gas spokeswoman Marisol Espinoza said the company “believes the hydrology study we provide will respond to the questions raised by the city and believes that the study will confirm that the recent work that SoCalGas has completed did not impact the creek’s ability to handle the flows generated during storm events.”  

The hydrology report is expected to be complete in the next couple of months, she added.

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