Environment & Science

LA County invests in debris basin upgrades

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Los Angeles County officials say upgrades to debris basins managed by the public works department are a big part of preparation for the next storm season.

L.A. County Public Works is spending just over a million dollars to upgrade half a dozen debris basins. Crews are making them bigger.

The basins catch mud, rocks, woody debris, water and even ash that flow off hillsides. That flow is faster when the fires burn the hills bare, as happened last year.

The Station Fire burned 160,000 acres of federal and state-controlled land. Heavy winter rains filled the debris basins quickly and often. Clearing them takes weeks and round-the-clock truck trips to carry the muck away.

People who live in foothill neighborhoods complain that's a nuisance, but in February a filled Mullally basin caused worse problems. Mudflows damaged more than 40 homes after a large boulder blocked that basin and caused it to overflow.

Public works officials say they hope to complete upgrades to these six smaller basins this fall in time for the first big storm.