Devil's Gate Dam And The Devilish El Niño

LA County has 14 dams and, over the next few months, they may get a good workout. El Niño rains could fill them up which is why the Department of Public Works is working to make sure they are in good shape. But, as they will say, a good flood control system doesn't mean there won't be a flood.

In the case of Devil's Gate Dam, there is a lot of sediment that has poured into the reservoir as a result of the 2009 Station Fire which could create problems for water flow.

As we walked alongside the spillway Christopher Stone, with the Department of Public Works, showed us bright orange booms that are supposed to keep trees and other vegetation from getting in and clogging ports in the dam. He says since the Station Fire debris flows have carried "a lot of vegetation and sediment" into the reservoir. In fact, he says it amounts to about 1.3 million cubic yards. He says that's very much on the minds of Public Works officials.

Says Stone, "If you couldn't control the releases coming out of this dam and it did go to spillway it could actually flood the communities that area adjacent to the Arroyo Seco."

There are a lot of homes, businesses and a large gold course in that area. But, he says, all of the sediment "takes up capacity in the reservoir so that you don't have that capacity available to control the amount of water coming off the watershed."

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So, the reservoir can fill very quickly which may make for some tense moments during the rainy season.

There is a plan to remove 2.4 million cubic feet of sediment from the reservoir, but it'll take 5 years and not be done in enough time for the current El Niño.