7 debris basins need enlarging, but won't be enlarged until 2010

Seven debris basins intended to protect Los Angeles County homes from erosion disasters are considered undersized and slated for expansion to increase their storage capacities, but those plans will be of no help during the current storm season because work won't begin before April.

The $5 million project to expand Big Briar, Mullally, Snover, Pickens, Starfall, Pinelawn and Rowley basins is detailed in a Station Fire disaster recovery report delivered this week to the County Board of Supervisors from Director of Public Works Gail Farber.

The cleanout of seven basins, including three of the ones scheduled for enlargement, was completed Dec. 2. The work "provides additional capacity for the anticipated volume of debris in the coming storm season resulting from the (Station) fire," the report states.

But expanding the basins in need of more capacity requires "design plans and specifications," which have been initiated, according to the report.

"The goal is to have all of the construction contracts awarded by the end of April" using the county's emergency contract authority, the report states. It says that they anticipate construction to be completed by Oct. 15, 2010, with an estimated cost of approximately $5 million.

In late AUgust and September, the Station Fire charred 250 square miles of the Angeles National Forest, destroying watersheds along the steep San Gabriel Mountains. It was the largest fire in Los Angeles County's recorded history.

"The August/September series of wildfires resulted in significant damage to county roads and infrastructure in the Angeles National Forest," the report states. It says that on Sept. 8, 2009, "your Board made a finding that an emergency situation existed that required immediate measures be undertaken to repair the damage, restore access to homes and businesses, and prevent and reduce potential flooding and damage due to mudflows."

As of Wednesday, property damages incurred during the August-September fires stood at $10.3 million, while road upgrades, erosion barriers and debris basin cleanouts to prevent damage from post-fire erosion have cost the county $9.5 million, according to the report.