Headworks Update

HW 01 1711 Site

Anybody who’s used Forest Lawn Dr. over the past few years has seen the massive construction site running along the LA River. This is the Headworks project, which involves building two giant underground reservoirs to replace the DWP’s Silverlake complex. I posted about it back in 2014, when phase one, Headworks East, was under construction, and it was completed in June 2015. At that time it was reported that the second phase would be finished in 2017. That didn’t happen. Though the City held a groundbreaking ceremony for Headworks West in 2016, progress since that time has been slow. Apparently this is because of unusual soil conditions at the site, which required extensive remediation.

When completed these two huge concrete tanks will hold a combined total of 110 million gallons. The plan is to cover them with soil and native vegetation, creating a park and wetlands with areas for hiking, cycling, and riding horses.. The project also involves the construction of a hydroelectric power plant.

Now and again I ride my bike along Forest Lawn Dr., and I’ve taken some photos of the site over the past couple years. Here’s a shot from June 2016 that was taken from the edge of the site near the entrance to Griffith Park.

HW 10 1606 Side Road

You may be wondering why I’m bothering to post a picture of a low hill covered with weeds. Now let me show you a photo taken from roughly the same perspective during the first phase of construction.

HW 15 Concrete Corner

The tank that was completed in 2015 lies beneath the soil you see in the first photo. Eventually a park will cover the entire site. Here’s another shot of from a different angle that shows the road which goes around the perimeter of the tank.

HW 22 1606 Mtn Cloud

Moving on to the site for the second phase of the project, Headworks West. You can see a huge mound has been formed by displaced soil.

HW 24 1606 Mound

Here’s a shot of the site as preliminary work was being done.

HW 26 1606 Rows 1

The following images show the site a couple months later, in August 2016.

HW 30 1608 Rows w Fwy

In this photo you can see the exposed side of the first reservoir.

HW 32 1608 Rows Tank 1

And here are some images from November 2017, when the structure was actually starting to take shape. In the first one you see the side of the completed reservoir again.

HW 40 1711 Dark Bed Tank 1

Here it looks like they’re laying out frames.

HW 42 1711 Frames Crane

I’m assuming the wall at the left marks the perimeter of the new reservoir.

HW 44 1711 Wall Frames

The rebar starts to define the shape of the reservoir.

HW 46 7111 Frame

The date for the completion of Headworks West is a little murky. One fact sheet published by the DWP says it’ll be done in 2018. But another, more detailed, fact sheet from the DWP says they’ll wrap it up in 2022. It also says they’ll finish the power plant in 2023, and the ecosystem restoration in 2024. So it could be some time before you’re able to ride your bike through the park.

A few links. The first is a video about the project from the DWP.

Headworks Video from DWP

The second link gives some background, and offers a detailed timeline.

Headworks Background, Fact Sheet and Timeline

And this last link shows a map of the completed project.

Map Completed Project

HW 90 1711 Site


What Price Water?

LAR Headworks

A few months ago a friend and I were going down Forest Lawn Drive near Griffith Park. While she drove I was gazing out the window, and I was surprised to see a huge construction site spread out across the bed of the LA River. I hadn’t heard anything about a project planned for that area, and at first I was alarmed. What the hell were they doing to the river?

LAR Site Hills

After investigating a little, I found out that this was the Headworks Reservoir, and it involves the construction of two huge underground containers which will hold 110 million gallons of water. The idea is that when the project is completed it will provide drinking water to area residents who are now served by the Silverlake reservoir complex. In large part this effort was spurred by new rules handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency. Open reservoirs, like those in the Silverlake complex, are subject to contamination from many different sources. The Headworks project will comply with the new EPA rules and provide safe drinking water for thousands of Angelenos. Aside from improved water quality, the deal includes a 4-megawatt hydroelectric plant to provide more power for the city. And if that’s not enough, once the tanks are completed there are plans to turn the surface area into a park which would include riparian wetlands, bike paths and equestrian trails.

Sound cool? Well, the finished project probably will be pretty nice. The DWP had to find some way to comply with the new EPA standards. And the park/wetlands component will surely be a big improvement over the sterile concrete channel that exists now. But…

There are some questions about the cost of the project and the process that was followed to make it happen. The City of LA initially said the price tag would be $230 million. That figure has now risen to $319 million. Those who follow local news already know that the DWP has been accused more than once of scamming its customers. The fact that the tab for Headworks has gone up almost 40 percent is definitely troubling. There are also questions about why the City chose this option when there were other, cheaper proposals on the table. If you’re a DWP ratepayer, you’ll want to read Jack Humphreville’s breakdown of the project on CityWatch.

Is Headworks Project Another Example of Corruption?

For a general overview of the project, here’s a summary from the DWP.

Headworks Reservoir Fact Sheet

Bottom line, the project is happening. And I do believe it’s a good thing over all. But it bothers me to think that we’re getting ripped off by the DWP once again. I’m glad Garcetti is pushing for an audit of the agency’s shady non-profits, but I’d really like to see a full audit of the DWP. We deserve to know where our money is going.

LAR Concrete Horizon