Disaster is often more foreseeable than we think. Remember the warnings for years before Hurricane Katrina that the New Orleans levees were in dire need of renovation? In that case, as in many others, top officials were given the information they needed, but they put off doing anything about it.
The echoes of such tragedies should be ringing in the ears of Los Angeles County supervisors who have kept the Department of Public Works from clearing out the mud-choked basin above Devil's Gate Dam in Pasadena. According to a report by the agency, 1 million cubic yards of sediment filled the basin during the winter storms after the 2009 Station fire. That's 10 times the volume of debris deposited in the reservoir during all of the 16 years before those storms.
The sediment has buried one of the dam's outlet gates and threatens to block others, the report says. And that's not the big threat: The basin is simply too full to hold another major flow. Should that happen, there could be catastrophic flooding and mudflows into South Pasadena and northeast Los Angeles.
Yet, as Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II reported this week, the Board of Supervisors hasn't given the go-ahead to clear out the basin, instead allowing small-scale interim measures while the county begins environmental impact studies that could take a couple of years. That's despite warnings from Public Works that these interim measures will fall short if there is a similar winter of massive debris flow.