Flood warning falls on county’s deaf ears

first_img“Restrictions in the stream bed under the Simi Valley Freeway overpass will cause flood waters to spread and … flow outside the channel through schools and homes downstream of the channel inlet.” Smith says he just wants the county to fully investigate the dam’s potential to flood homes, schools and businesses, and take whatever action is necessary if there is a problem. “Frankly, he doesn’t want to leave his heirs to deal with this,” Holzer said, adding that his client is also worried about being remembered as the guy whose dam caused a terrible flood. The vast divide between Charles Smith’s alarm-sounding and the county’s hunkered-down brush off begs some objective expertise. “If they built the flood control channel expecting that dam to hold back upstream debris, then there’s a problem if debris overtops,” explained Terry Hogue, a flood-plane expert who teaches at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Dams are very expensive and the dam-building era in the United States is basically over because dams are generally viewed as the least desirable way to control flooding. If a dam was seen as necessary, there must have been a good reason.” Hogue says the significance of Smith’s warning hinges on two questions: Does the flood control channel rely on Smith’s dam to hold back debris? And, how have problems that would have been solved by a new dam been addressed? But DPW public information officer Gary H. Boz insists there is no threat to public safety in relation to Brown’s Creek. “Each year, we remove the vegetation from the channel and ensure it is ready for the upcoming storm season. … When the area experienced near record rains from the 2004-2005 storm season, the facilities worked as expected and there were no reports of flooding.” But that does not address the scenario of debris flowing over the dam’s top. Furthermore, ’04-’05 didn’t bring the 50-year flood. Experts say it’s overdue – and that’s not just Charles Smith’s problem. Thom Senzee is managing editor of the North Valley Community News.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champYet his client contends the system does indeed depend on his dam to hold back debris. He insists the next 50-year flood will cause the dam to let loose a load of tree stumps and other debris that has stacked to the top of his dam through the years. It’s his dam. It’s his problem. Talk to our attorney. That’s the message from the county. But are those officials so certain that Smith’s concerns have no merit that they are willing to do nothing? Apparently so, because they have stated there are no plans to investigate his claim that flooding is assured if something isn’t done. Yet three decades of Department of Public Works’ memos reveal an increasing level of concern among engineers and supervisors about the threat of flooding downstream from Smith’s dam. In the early 1970s, the county seriously considered building an 85-foot dam across Brown’s Creek just north of what is now the SR-118 Ronald Reagan Freeway. But by 1974, environmental concerns quashed plans to build the new dam. Fears grew. A 1981 memo issued an ominous warning: A 91-year-old landowner is warning county officials that a dam on his property north of Chatsworth poses a major flood threat to neighborhoods downstream from his Brown’s Canyon spread. But county officials say that’s his problem. “Over the years, the crater behind his dam has served as a debris basin,” said Stephen Holzer, an attorney representing landowner Charles Smith. Holzer says Smith’s nearly century-old stone, earth and railroad-tie dam traversing a watershed called Brown’s Creek was never intended to be a debris-mitigating component of the local flood-control system. last_img read more