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The Valley

Dumping by Army Corps Causes a Stir

The City Council wants debris that was left in Hansen Dam lake removed. But the federal agency plans to fill in what was a gravel pit.

March 20, 2003|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

Get your rebar out of our lake.

That was the message Wednesday from the Los Angeles City Council, nine months after the Army Corps of Engineers dumped chunks of concrete laced with steel rebar into a lake at Hansen Dam, a recreation spot popular with joggers and horse riders in the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Last summer, residents noticed blocks of concrete under the water, discarded there by the corps after it rebuilt a nearby swimming lake. Angry residents demanded that the refuse be removed.

The council echoed their sentiments Wednesday, voting unanimously to request that the corps extract the materials and asking the city attorney to take up the matter if it doesn't comply.

"We really want to make sure that this is removed," said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who represents communities adjacent to the lake. "What they did was wrong."

"As I see it, this is no different from the criminals who dump all over the city," added Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

Not so fast, responded the corps.

The 35-acre lake is actually a decade-old gravel pit that filled with water, said Charles Dwyer, chief of operations for the corps' Los Angeles district.

The Corps of Engineers put the discarded concrete in the lake, he said, because it has long-standing plans to fill it in, along with a 10-acre lake next to it. The entire area is federally owned and is leased to the city for recreational uses.

"They're hazards," Dwyer said of the accidental lakes. "They're not patrolled, and people could fall in and drown."

Although the area is used frequently by residents, Dwyer said the corps did not think anyone would mind if the lake disappeared.

"It never occurred to anybody that the locals regard it as an amenity," he said.

City officials scoffed at that, saying the lake is a fixture in the community

"For all intents and purposes this is a lake just like Balboa Lake is in the West Valley, like Echo Lake is in Echo Park," said City Council President Alex Padilla, who represents the area.

The corps' project does not affect the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center, which includes a nine-acre recreational lake and a 1 1/2-acre swimming lake.

Dwyer acknowledged that the corps did not get proper permits to dump the material. But for now, he said, it has no intention of removing the concrete.

Instead, he said, they are awaiting soil and water tests that they hope will show the materials have done no environmental damage. Pulling the concrete out would destroy the ecosystem that is there now, Dwyer said.

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