Sunday, August 3, 2014

LA Floods UCLA: The DWP of the Story

A water main burst Tuesday, July 29 on Sunset Boulevard above the campus of UCLA. Sunset lies above UCLA. 20 million gallons of water followed gravity and flowed down through the campus. The water main break occurred at a “Y” connection where a 30’ pipe laid down in 1921 connected with a 36” pipe in 1956. The geyser erupted 30’ in the air. The resulting sinkhole was 24’ wide and 5’ deep. 36,000 gallons a minutes poured into UCLA. The pipe burst occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon, but it took until 9:00PM to shut off the water. The hallowed Pauley Pavilion was flooded with 8 inches covering the floor. Pauley had just completed a $136 million expansion and renovation. Also flooded were the Arthur Ashe Student Health & Welfare Center, the JD Morgan Center, and the John Wooden Center. Two garages were flooded with about 960 cars trapped. Many were submerged by 5-6 feet of water. About 400 cars are inoperable, and thus a total loss. UCLA announced the warped wood floor of Pauley Pavilion needs to be replaced. The total losses from the flooding are yet to be calculated. The UCLA flooding is but a spectacular and costly example of the past decade of burst water mains and geysers in Los Angeles. Two days later on July 31 a main burst on the 1600 block of Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock. A March 28, 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times was entitled “The Looming Sinkhole Crisis.” No part of Los Angeles is seemingly immune from broken water mains. Bursting water mains and pipes are a daily occurrence in Los Angeles. Only the major ones make the news. Earlier water main breaks included a 62” pipe in Studio City in 2009 and a September 8, 2009 sinkhole in Valley Village in the San Fernando Valley. This sinkhole swallowed a fire engine. A few days earlier a 62” water main break flooded residences in Studio City. Large chunks of Coldwater Canyon Avenue collapsed in the break. Six breaks occurred in the Fairfax and Hollywood areas in a short period in early 2012. Three pipes failed in three days in Highland Park earlier in July 2014. A broken water main on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) created a 30’ deep sinkhole, closing ½ of the PCH into Malibu. A May 12, 2012 break in La Puente created a 25’ by 15’ sinkhole. Blame for the cascading water breaks rests directly on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, he famous DWP. The DWP is engaged in responding to incidents rather than preventative maintenance. The expected life of these cast iron pipes is 50-75 years. About 20% of the pipes are over 100 years old. The DWP’s replacement cycle is 300 years. Thus, it is possible that a main could fail 4-6 times before a scheduled replacement. The DPW has acquired great expertise in responding to breaks, shutting off the water, excavating the site, connecting new pipes, and restoring the surface as if nothing ever happened. That is an expensive proposition. DWP’s problem is money; i.e. a lack of capital funds because it has squandered its revenues. The average total pay of DWP employees in 2012 was $101,237, about 25% higher than comparable workers in both public and private utilities. DWP pay increased 12% from 2008 to 2012 when the country was in a deep economic slump. Custodians, for example, climbed to $69,999 annually from $56,060 in five years. The IBEW local, which represents the DWP workers, is refusing to turn over the records of the $4 million annually allocated by DWP to two “trust funds” for worker safety and training. The department sought several rate increases over the past decade “to go green,” but public opposition stalled them in recent years. The public reacted to the apparent waste and inefficiency of the DWP. The widely held belief is that rate increases would be poured into salaries and LA’s budgetary hole. California is in the midst of a monumental drought. We are not only being urged to save, but will be facing mandatory restrictions. DWP’s policy of deferred maintenance is wasting more water than we can conserve, Los Angeles is living off the deteriorating infrastructure of the past. (I wanted to say “The Rest of the Story,” but that was a tag line of Paul Harvey. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ August 4, 2014. Anonymous posted a comment, raising the problem of the DWP and Owens Valley. (All comments have inadvertently been deleted). The saga of William Mulholland, the DWP, and the Owens Valley is well known. It is the backdrop to the movie "Chinatown." LA's need for water was not quenched by Owens Valley. The DWP then moved north to Mono Lake, diverting several of the streams feeding the Lake into the Owens Valley System. The shrinkage on Mono Lake gave rise to perhaps the most significant natural resources case of the past century. The California Supreme Court in the 1983 National Audubon Society case imposed the public trust doctrine on the diversion. Those interested in the Owns Valley and Mono Lake should join the Mono Lake Committee, a nonprofit based in Lee Vining, California (mono

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