SoCal Gas responds to city’s questions on Placerita Creek pipeline work

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

Southern California Gas Co. officials responded to questions raised by the City Council about a violation notice of the Clean Water Act the utility received during work in Placerita Canyon, indicating a hydraulic study is underway.

On March 12, council members asked SoCal Gas spokeswoman Marisol Espinoza to provide an update on the pipeline work and clarify some of the concerns residents near the project site have raised, including those of Kevin Ward, who believes the project is an environmental hazard.

The project required maintenance work on a high-pressure gas transmission pipeline that was exposed near Placerita Canyon Road and Golden Oak Lane and consisted of installing hinged concrete revetment mats over the pipeline in Placerita Creek to prevent erosion. SoCal Gas told residents in a letter in October that it “will restore the workspace to as near its original condition and appearance as is reasonably possible.”

Ward and other residents have voiced opposition, saying the project has “filled in Placerita Creek, destroyed the environment and raised the FEMA flood zone by many feet and left it.” Several homeowners whose homes rest by the creek have said they’re concerned over the potential for increased flooding now that the creek appears nearly flat and almost 4 feet deep rather than the estimated 8 feet it was before the project.

In a letter to Espinoza on March 20, the city asked SoCal Gas to provide the following information: An explanation of the concrete revetment mats’ ability to support the re-establishment of the habitat that existed at the site before the project, and any hydraulic studies the gas company has conducted showing impacts to the floodplain, if any, as a result of the work. A map of transmission lines, how the feeder lines connect and a list of homes served from the transmission lines crossing Placerita Creek was also asked to be provided.

On April 9, SoCal Gas responded to the three points raised by the city. In the letter, which was signed by Espinoza and addressed to Shannon Pickett, assistant to the city engineer, the spokeswoman said the gas company “is in the process of undertaking a hydraulic analysis focused on the project area and will share the hydraulic analysis with the city once the analysis is complete.”

Pickett was unavailable to comment Tuesday.  

To address whether the pipeline work allowed for the return of habitat, the gas company said its concrete revetment mats have “interstitial space between blocks (to allow) for vegetation establishment where plant material can interact with soil substrates, restoring the look of a natural riparian corridor.”

A survey conducted by a biological consultant helped characterize the type of habitat that previously existed, SoCal Gas said. This helped the gas company plant seeds of native plant species, which “will have access to soils captured on top of the mats, as well as soils available between the blocks.”

SoCal Gas said the work it has done, including the survey and monitoring of the site, is per requirements of the Water Quality Control Board. Renee Purdy, assistant executive officer with the board, said, “We’re not able to share a lot of details, but we have been in communication with SoCal Gas and the neighbors in the vicinity of the project. We’ve been to the site several times and are currently evaluating the current status.”

Ward said he and neighbors are keeping a close eye on the matter as “there are seven months until the next rainy season and the next possible flash flood.”

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