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Tank to Sub for Rowena Reservoir : Water: DWP and residents reach agreement on a plan for a landscaped area to preserve the neighborhood's ambience.


After several months of mediation, officials of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and residents near the Rowena Reservoir have agreed on a plan to replace the reservoir with a camouflaged tank after it is drained in January, rather than refill it.

Members of the Rowena subcommittee of the citywide Coalition to Save Open Reservoirs had opposed the decommissioning of the 31-million-gallon reservoir, but they have agreed not to fight the decision, which was hastened by seismic concerns.

The committee will work instead to develop design standards to ensure that the new tank does not become a community eyesore.

"We have agreed not to fight them on a tank if they agree to make the tank look good," said Lynn Hill, a founding member of the Rowena Water Committee, which has been involved in negotiations with the DWP for more than a year.

Molly Collins, a board member of the Los Feliz Improvement Assn., said neighbors want the tank to be buried and the 5.7-acre Rowena site to be landscaped with greenery, ponds and running streams.

DWP officials have not made any firm commitments on the design of the holding facility, although they say they want to do their best to make the neighbors happy.

"We would really like to do what the community would like us to do," said Cecilia Trehuba, who is in the DWP's water engineering design division. "We want to make it look as nice as they can."

However, Trehuba said, the department must be careful what it agrees to because "funding could be a constraint." Negotiations over the proposed design are continuing.

Rowena Reservoir, at the corner of Hyperion and Rowena avenues, holds drinking water for an area directly west of downtown Los Angeles. It is one of 10 open reservoirs that the DWP has targeted for metal roofs or floating rubber covers to improve water quality.

Rowena has had ongoing water-quality problems, including two midge fly infestations, which forced the closure of the reservoir twice during the summer of 1990.

Bruce Kuebler, head of water quality for the DWP, said a cover would eliminate some of these problems by blocking out sunlight.

Neighboring residents, however, were opposed to the proposal to cover the reservoir, saying a roof or floating rubber cover would ruin their man-made lake.

"Our fight has never been to tell them what they have to do to deliver a clean quality of water," Collins said. "All we felt we could really demand is that the aesthetic values of the reservoir not be destroyed."

Last year, the Coalition to Save Open Reservoirs entered mediation with the DWP to discuss how the department could improve water quality at its reservoirs while preserving the ambience of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The issue was brought to a head this spring, when the State Department of Water Resources ordered the DWP to take Rowena Reservoir out of commission by April 1 because the dam there is seismically unsafe and could break during a major earthquake.

DWP officials decided to drain the reservoir next month, during the low-demand season. They also told nearby residents that if the reservoir were rebuilt, it would ultimately be covered.

Collins said residents decided that they preferred an attractively landscaped tank.

"A covered reservoir is completely unacceptable--a nightmare vision," she said. "A buried tank with water features (and) landscaping on the site can duplicate more the ambience currently provided by the reservoir."

Kuebler said it will be at least two to three years before the new tank is complete. In the interim, the DWP will install piping to operate the water system.

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