On Tuesday, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District Board approved Westlake Village as the site for the construction of a proposed 5-million gallon water tank.
Dozens of residents gathered at the board meeting in anticipation of a decision on the site of the future tank, the access point of which is to be built in Three Springs, a residential community of about 500 homes in Westlake Village.
Agoura Hills resident Martin Jansen and others voiced a number of concerns regarding the tank’s construction, ranging from public safety issues to trepidations that projections for the five-year-old plan were flawed and outdated.
“If we need 7.76 million gallons and we have 7.2 available, that’s a theoretical shortage of five million, which is 7.8 percent of the amount of water that needs to be stored in the summertime only,” Jansen told the board.
“The board should wait six to nine months, allowing for the 2007 master plan to be updated…the shortage we have is only theoretical,” he said.
The tank is part of a larger master Backbone Improvement Program aiming to modernize water transmission throughout the district, including Calabasas, by utilizing the Las Virgenes Reservoir to offset the cost of purchasing water from Metropolitan.
Estimated population growth and water usage trends based on the district’s 2007 master plan indicate possible water shortages in the future, especially during periods of high demand and in emergencies such as fires and earthquakes--situations Jansen called “extraordinary conditions."
Jansen advocated for conservation measures in lieu of what he called an expensive and possibly unnecessary construction project. To do so would require a return to 1985 water demand levels, said John R. Mundy, LVMWD’s General Manager.
“We think there’s a significant need to provide additional storage. A 38 percent reduction in demand is not justifiable,” Mundy told the audience, adding that since the district was using reserves to pay for the project, a majority of funds were already paid.
Jansen also supported an alternative location to build the water tank known as site C, which is flat, open, bypasses the Three Springs community and requires less blasting.
Board members rejected site C because it would entail construction of a road from Triunfo Canyon which could be costly at more than $1 million. It would also entail additional environmental studies and may also release spores that cause Valley Fever.
A test conducted at the approved site was negative for Valley Fever, according to the Valley Fever Vaccine Project Director for Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, Richard F. Hector, Ph.D., J.D.
“It’s criminal to build a road off of Triunfo Canyon,” Kris Barnes, an Oak Forest resident, told the board.
“It would chase away the wildlife. There is only one herd of deer in Westlake and it lives there. It’s a trailhead and it’s utilized by hundreds of people every week. Suddenly we become the valley and that would be very sad,” she said.
Amid worries of dirt released into the air by blasting, Mundy reassured the audience of several measures to be taken to minimize fugitive dust, including minimal blasting and the use of blasting mats.
“Grading activities will be regulated, ensuring dust doesn’t get off sites,” Mundy told the crowd. “On high wind days, we wouldn’t grade.”
The construction access point for the approved site comprises Three Springs Drive and Torchwood Place, resulting in trucks and equipment to move along residential streets and in front of Three Springs Park, which resident Mary Ellen Lykken said is used by the community every day.
A stay-at-home mother who cares full-time for her special needs son, Lykken lives across the street from the park. She and her husband Dan Lykken are worried about hazards wrought by the heavy-duty construction planned for their immediate locale, including the possible removal of speed bumps.
“This is a public safety issue,” said Lykken. “I think it’s dangerous for the community.”
The effect of construction on the community was considered in a traffic impact study, according to the board.
Barry Steinhardt, treasurer for the board and the lone voice of opposition to the project, urged the board to consider a proposition made during public comments by another concerned resident, Michael Omary.
A contractor who owns a 37-acre parcel along Mulholland Highway, Omary offered to donate part of his land for the contested water tank and offered several suggestions, including burying the bulk of it at the bottom of a high gorge in an area hidden from public view.
Following public comments and after expressing a long-term outlook, the board voted in favor of building the 5-million gallon water tank on proposed site A in Three Springs, though a date to begin construction has not been set.
“The staff will go into a planning phase,” Lee Renger, the board’s president, told the packed room. “There will be time before the shovels hit the dirt in case you have concerns, so things won’t be cast in concrete for quite a while.”
The tank is part of a larger project that includes the installation of a water conveyance pipeline in Calabasas and upgrades to a water filtration plant in Westlake, as well as a segment of pipeline running along Reyes Adobe and Agoura roads east toward Cornell Road that was completed last week.
For more information about the project, including environmental analyses, transportation studies and maps, click here.