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Quakes, wildfires, floods & landslides

• Planners list the top natural threats facing us.

Posted: April 16, 2008 12:33 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
In a valley that sits atop numerous earthquake faults and is surrounded by dry hillsides, city and county planners outlined the biggest threats to public safety in the Santa Clarita Valley for the city's Planning Commission on Tuesday.

Planners released the draft version of the safety element of the One Valley One Vision General Plan, a long-term planning document that will act as a sort of constitution for the Santa Clarita Valley. The city and county are developing the final stages of the plan, which likely will be adopted in the spring of 2009.

"The purpose of the safety element is to describe and identify natural and manmade hazards," said Jason Smisko, a planner for the city. "Once we identify them, we can limit the public's exposure to these hazards."

The plan identified 12 active faults in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Active faults are defined as those which have caused soil displacement within the last 11,000 years.

The San Andreas Fault north of Santa Clarita was listed as a fault that is capable of causing major damage in Santa Clarita. It marks the boundary between the Pacific and North American geological plates.

"The length of the San Andreas Fault Zone and its active seismic history indicate that it has a high potential for large-scale movement in the near future, with an estimated Richter magnitude of 6.8 to
8.0," the plan read.

Other faults, such as the San Fernando and San Gabriel faults, were also listed as nearby faults that could potentially produce earthquakes with magnitudes of more than 6.0.

The plan also outlines flood hazard areas throughout the valley, including Placerita Canyon and Sand Canyon.

Smisko said that because Santa Clarita is surrounded by hillsides, the area can be vulnerable to landslides. Increased urbanization also leads to more stormwater runoff in the streets, he said, which increases the possibility of flooding.

"We have a greater amount of concrete, a greater amount of asphalt and a greater amount of rooftops, so you're going to have a greater amount of stormwater runoff," he said.

The city has used methods of buried bank stabilization in the Santa Clara River and adopted floodplain management ordinances requiring housing developers to provide sufficient drainage in flood-prone areas, he said.

Smisko also outlined the valley's susceptibility to wildfires and mentioned the need for 12 new fire stations to add to the 13 existing stations by 2016.

The county Fire Department estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the Santa Clarita Valley is designated as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, the highest classification for wildfire potential.

Other threats addressed in the safety element included crime, hazardous materials and extreme weather.

The city and county plan to hold meetings on the six other elements of the One Valley One Vision General Plan throughout the year.


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