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Examination of Potential Impacts of High Speed Rail’s National Forest Routes

on Los Angeles Locally-Sourced Drinking Water from Little Tujunga Canyon

1. OVERVIEW
On December 2nd, 2014, the High Speed Rail (HSR) Project released new maps showing recently proposed
alternate rail routes that go above and tunnel through the Angeles National forest. These new routes differ
significantly from the I5–SR14 transportation corridor that was described in the original High Speed Rail
legislation and that was voted on and passed by the Citizens of California by a small margin. The concept of
new routes was introduced in Spring 2014 and the possibility was presented to the public as a vague swath
through the Angeles National Forest in June 2014.
On Dec 2nd, three specific proposed alternative routes E1, E2, and E3 were released to the public. These
routes veer away from established transportation corridors and instead go across, over, and tunnel through
the Northeast San Fernando Valley communities of Shadow Hills, Sunland, Kagel Canyon, and Lake View
Terrace and through Little Tujunga Canyon and Upper Pacoima Canyon in the Angeles National Forest
where they travel across, over, and tunnel through sensitive environmental land, watershed, and wildlife
habitat.

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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Getting oriented:

High Speed Rail map with E1, E2, E3 proposed routes released in December 2014 with
added locations for orientation and canyons highlighted (approx.)
Little Tujunga Cyn – blue, Big Tujunga Cyn – red, Pacoima Cyn – green.

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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2. FRESH WATER SOURCES in LITTLE TUJUNGA CANYON
Data summarized from the California State Water Resources Control Board list of
Los Angeles River watershed tributaries.

Recognized Tributaries of Little Tujunga Creek

Water Body

is a Tributary of…

Hydrologic Unit Code

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

Big Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Bartholomaus Canyon

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050105

Buck Canyon (Indian Springs)

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Cottonwood Canyon

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Kagel Canyon Creek

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Limerock Canyon

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Lovell Canyon (Oak Spring)

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Marok Canyon **

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

**Marek Canyon is the correct spelling

Nehr Canyon (Hidden Spring)

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Oak Spring Canyon

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Water Body

is a Tributary of…

Hydrologic Unit Code

Gold Creek

Little Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050104

Alder Creek

Gold Creek

180701050104

Boulder Canyon

Gold Creek

180701050104

Center Creek

Gold Creek

180701050104

Pine Canyon

Gold Creek

180701050104

Slaughter Canyon

Gold Creek

180701050104

Ebey Canyon*

Big Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050105

Oliver Canyon*

Big Tujunga Canyon Creek

180701050105

* Not recognized at this point without more study. These canyons cross both Big and Little Tujunga at a thin ridge;
water from the Fascination Springs Complex, Larsen Spring, and Ebey Canyon waters flow into Little Tujunga.

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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USGS Topo Maps showing Little Tujunga Waterways (detailed views follow):

Kagel Spring (aka Kagel Creek) with surface water -- photo taken 1/23/15 near Little Tujunga confluence:

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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Topo map detailed images. Images progress from south Little Tujunga Cyn to north Little Tujunga Cyn:

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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Oak Spring year-round water (photos taken 10/31/14 – before the rain.)

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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Where is this water easily seen?
Oak Spring, a historic headwater of the Los Angeles River, has surface water visible and flowing yearround. Hidden Spring maintains a visible rural pond on private property year-round. Larsen Spring feeds an
overflowing water trough year-round by a simple pipe. The Fascination Springs Complex feeds a wildlife
drinker year-round on the Little Tujunga side. From direct observation, Marek, Kagel, and Ebey Canyon
springs have had surface water showing since at least 1999 at the Little Tujunga confluence …until very
recently.
Factors for recent surface water decline:


Drought (lower water table).
Marek Canyon Fire sand erosion filling Marek, Cottonwood, Limerock springs channels.
Station Fire sediment filling all channels including Little Tujunga mainly below Gold Creek confluence.

Water is found fairly easily by digging down in the sand in these channels or walking upstream.
All of these water sources – those officially-listed and those observed but not listed – need further study!

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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How close are the proposed HSR routes to these water sources?
Just some of the Little Tujunga Canyon tributary sources in relation to proposed HSR routes (locations
approximate):

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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3. LITTLE TUJUNGA GEOLOGY AND HYDROLOGY SUMMARY
Little Tujunga Canyon is a wide syncline* that runs
southwest (downstream) to northeast (upstream) where it
broadens out east-west at Gold Creek. Little Tujunga is
formed by impermeable** rock that is covered with
eroding rock and lots and lots of sand and small gravel.
(*Folded rock in a “U” shape)
(**Water does not penetrate)

Water on the surface of Little Tujunga that comes from
either the year-round water sources (springs/creeks) or
runoff does not penetrate the base rock in the northern upper half of the canyon. Water that does not evaporate
or is not absorbed at the root layer sinks and runs south
under and through the sand and gravel along the
impermeable rock bottom surface toward the Hansen
Dam basin.
Although water cannot penetrate into the aquifer in the upper northern part of Little Tujunga, the eroding
south flank of the Little Tujunga syncline, however, is very permeable. Upon reaching the eroding south
flank, water on the surface of Little Tujunga that comes from either the year-round water sources
(springs/creeks) or runoff can and does percolate into the San Fernando aquifer groundwater basin. The
San Fernando groundwater basin is the major source of Los Angeles’ locally-sourced drinking
water. Please see the map on the following page describing the location of the San Fernando groundwater
basin. Little Tujunga Canyon is highlighted at the top.
Water on the surface of Little Tujunga that comes from either the year-round water sources (springs/creeks)
or runoff that reaches the Hansen Dam basin is used in to recharge the aquifer as well. The process is
described in Los Angeles’s Groundwater Recharge documentation:
“ Groundwater recharge into the San Fernando Groundwater Basin) is primarily achieved through existing spreading
grounds in the San Fernando Valley operated by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works. …The City of
Los Angeles has three major sources of groundwater located within the Upper Los Angeles River Area: the (San
Fernando Groundwater Basin), the Sylmar Basin, and the Eagle Rock Basin. …Groundwater recharge into the (San
Fernando Groundwater Basin) is currently achieved primarily through existing spreading grounds in the San Fernando
Valley. The Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Works owns and operates the Hansen Spreading Grounds and the
Pacoima Spreading Grounds. They are used, along with the Tujunga, Branford, and Lopez Spreading Grounds, to
percolate stormwater into the (San Fernando Groundwater Basin). The Hansen Spreading Ground [HSG] is located
along the northwest side of the Tujunga Wash Channel immediately northeast of San Fernando Road. The HSG has 6
shallow spreading basins on 105 wetted acres with an estimated maximum storage volume of 1,420 acre-feet. The
facility can receive a total maximum flow of 400 cfs. The average percolation rate is 150 cfs. The sources of water to
the HSG are controlled flows from Hansen Dam and Big Tujunga Dam.… “

In summary, there is no doubt: Little Tujunga water including the fresh-water springs becomes
Los Angeles’ locally-sourced drinking water.

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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4. LOS ANGELES’ DRINKING WATER PROBLEMS
Water is the most important issue in the State of California and a precious commodity in Southern California
and the City of Los Angeles.
Currently, Los Angeles already imports 80-90% of its drinking water. The specific amount imported varies by
rainfall, aquifer health, watersheds health, temperature (evaporation), and availability of non-local water.
The San Fernando aquifer is far and away the most important locally-sourced water providing the majority of
that water to the City.
Any water Los Angeles may lose from these local sources must be purchased and imported from other
locations to make up the difference. This is this expensive to LADWP ratepayers, and when LA Takes more,
there is less for other municipalities and Mother Nature.
Los Angeles’ water problem is so significant, L.A. cannot afford to lose one single local water source.

5. HIGH SPEED RAIL ROUTES E1, E2, and E3 POTENTIAL THREATS TO LITTLE TUJUNGA WATER
If allowed to progress, the E1, E2, and E3, HSR routes will have a significant negative impact on the Little
Tujunga water system. Spring and creek hydrology can be extremely fragile when exposed to diverting,
blocking, general construction, tunneling activities, surface maintenance access, and the type of high-speed
sonic piston activity associated with this project. Spring and creek water flow can be damaged or completely
destroyed by this activity. One may not know the ultimate impact of such activity until it is too late.
Because Oak Spring and the springs upstream in Gold Creek are at somewhat high elevation with water
possibly pushing through 1000’ or more above impermeable rock, the sources of these waters must be
studied carefully as there may actually be water under pressure coming from below the syncline bed.
With HSR, there absolutely will be major surface construction. Emergency vehicle access and maintenance
roads, ventilation, and utility infrastructure will run along the surface of the route. This cannot conceivably
be “invisible” through the Angeles National Forest as it is often portrayed.
Engineers do not want water popping up in
their tunnels. Both the Army Corps of
Engineers and the EPA detail their concerns
regarding de-watering and water table
lowering by this project in their scoping
meeting comments. Since the water table is at
only 0’-30’ SE of Little Tujunga and 0’-60’ NW
of Little Tujunga, there will clearly be impacts
needing mitigation!
Question – Based on past experience, do you
trust a lowest-bid construction company in
California: 1. to complete promised mitigation
correctly, and 2. To be held truly accountable if
they do not?
Analyses of the impacts to water must also be made for
Upper Pacoima Canyon!
Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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What are HSR’s proposed plans in the Angeles National Forest?
It’s been difficult to get concrete answers from the HSR people on what exactly would be built through Little
Tujunga if E1, E2, or E3 were selected. In general, two or three 30-40’ diameter tunnels will be built. The
stated maximum grade of the route is only either 1% or 3% depending upon who you spoke with at HSR
scoping meetings, and the smallest radius turn was stated to be 5000’. These tunnels will in theory have to
climb 2000-2350’ over 18-20 miles to reach Palmdale. Since a 1% grade = 52.8 feet per mile and a 3%
grade = 158.4 feet per mile, there is very little room over a 20 mile path to divert vertically to avoid natural
resources like springs and other water features.
E1 will be very near the surface as it enters Little Tujunga, with trench-and-cover techniques (rather than
tunnel boring) likely occurring where Kagel and Marek Springs enter Little Tujunga. In fact, E1 is shown as
popping above ground and re-entering this tunnel near Gold Creek, Buck Canyon, Barrel Spring, and Indian
Springs. Trench-and-cover would likely be used through this important confluence area.
E2 and E3 will run by trestle across Big Tujunga where water-permeated sands reach depths of as much as
1000’. They will punch into the hillside above Lake View Terrace at approximately Oliver Truck trail, and run
very near the surface (likely trench-and-cover) in the canyons where Oliver (Little Tujunga side) & Ebey,
Fascination Complex, Larsen, and Oak springs/waters flow into Little Tujunga. These two routes pass
almost directly beneath Oak Spring and others that may get their water from deep fissures in the
impermeable bedrock.

The bottom line is that there will be significant negative impact to these valuable local drinking
water sources. This is not in doubt.

5. CONCLUSION
My final question to you all is this:
Given that drinking water is the single most important issue in California, and that Los Angeles has a huge
water problem, why is HSR threatening LA’s sources of drinking water when they have perfectly viable
routes that do not do so?
HSR must not be allowed to damage ONE SINGLE SOURCE of LA's locally-sourced drinking water.
Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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6. EXTRA
Some Geology worth noting: Gold Creek is split on the east (Big Tujunga) side and the west (Little
Tujunga) side by a significant fault. Fault failure faces run north-south on the Big Tujunga side and eastwest on the Little Tujunga side. HSR routes run through this fault. Surface water sources (springs?) appear
to be the same on the Big and Little Tujunga side – a visual inspection of the symmetric drainage on both
sides in spite of the discontinuity of the fault provides evidence to this possibility.
It therefore follows, as expected, that Little Tujunga water sources are not independent of the water in
nearby canyons. Little Tujunga water is not independent of Big Tujunga, Kagel, and Lopez Canyons.
Construction in Little Tujunga will impact water in other canyons. (Note that de-watering Little Tujunga may
impact the plan to re-introduce the Santa Ana Suckerfish to Gold Creek on the Big Tujunga side.)
Big Tujunga Gold Creek visible fault face (looking north):

Little Tujunga Gold Creek visible fault face (looking north):

Kristin C. Sabo – January 2015

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