Throughout history, the inhabitants of California have dealt with various natural hazards. Photos, journal entries, and newspapers from the 1800's show that the residents of the area dealt with earthquakes, earth movements, flooding, tsunamis, wildfires and wind storms. Situated within the San Gabriel basin of the Southern California area, the City of West Covina has been impacted by many of these same hazards.
Although there were fewer people in the area, the natural hazards adversely affected the lives of those who depended on the land and climate conditions for food and welfare. As the population of the City continues to increase, the exposure to natural hazards creates an even higher risk than previously experienced.
The City of West Covina is the thirteenth most populous city in Los Angeles County , and offers the benefits of living in a Mediterranean-type climate. The city is characterized by the unique and attractive landscape that makes the area so popular. However, the potential impacts of natural hazards associated with the terrain make the environment and population vulnerable to natural disaster situations.
The City is subject to earthquakes, earth movements, flooding, wildfires and windstorms. Due to its inland location, the City of West Covina is less likely to suffer the impacts of a tsunami than other communities situated closer to the Southern California coastline. It is impossible to predict exactly when these disasters will occur, or the extent to which they will affect the City. However, with careful planning and collaboration among public agencies, private sector organizations, and citizens within the community, it is possible to minimize the losses that can result from these natural disasters.
City of West Covina most recently experienced damage resulting from the rainstorms and flooding occurring throughout Southern California from 2/10 through 2/15/1992. A Presidential Declaration assisted the City with its recovery. Federal funds were received to assist the whole City and particularly the area of Azusa Ave. and Amar Road. The businesses and apartments in this area were adversely impacted with damage to the structure, property/inventory, and loss of business days.
The City of West Covina was also adversely impacted by the rainstorms of February 1978. During this time, the City of West Covina received federal disaster funds through Declaration FDAA 547 DR in the amount of $308,584. Damage from these storms included a road washout, slope failure at water reservoir #2, and the subsidence of fuel tanks at the Police Department facility.
Areas affected by this storm flooding were minimized by previous mitigation projects, Prior to the flood control system being built, Walnut Creek, which flows across the central section of the City from east to west, would overflow its banks and damage agricultural land. The construction of the San Gabriel Dam No. 2 in 1933, and the storm drain system and channel into the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers in 1938, helped mitigate flooding. The construction of nearby Puddingstone and San Dimas Canyon Dams in 1921 also aided in the mitigation of flooding.
Why Develop a Mitigation Plan?
As the costs of damage from natural disasters continues to increase, the community realizes the importance of identifying effective ways to reduce vulnerability to disasters. Natural hazard mitigation plans assist communities in reducing risk from natural hazards by identifying resources, information, and strategies for risk reduction, while helping to guide and coordinate mitigation activities throughout the City.
The plan provides a set of action items to reduce risk from natural hazards through education, outreach programs to foster the development of partnerships, and implementation of preventative activities, such as land use programs that restrict and control development in areas subject to damage from natural hazards.
The resources and information within the Mitigation Plan:
- establish a basis for coordination and collaboration among agencies and the public in the City of West Covina;
- identify and prioritize future mitigation projects; and
- assist in meeting the requirements of federal assistance programs.
The mitigation plan works in conjunction with other City plans, including the City General Plan and Emergency Operations Plans.
Whom Does the Mitigation Plan Affect?
The City of West Covina Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan affects the entire city. Map 1 shows major roads in the City of West Covina. This plan provides a framework for planning for natural hazards. The resources and background information in the plan is applicable City-wide, and the goals and recommendations can lay groundwork for local mitigation plans and partnerships.
Natural Hazard Land Use Policy in California
Planning for natural hazards should be an integral element of any city's land-use planning program. All California cities and counties have General Plans and the implementing ordinances that are required to comply with the statewide planning regulations.
The continuing challenge faced by local officials and state government is to keep the network of local plans effective in responding to the changing conditions and needs of California's diverse communities, particularly in light of the very active seismic region in which we live.
This is particularly true in the case of planning for natural hazards where communities must balance development pressures with detailed information on the nature and extent of hazards.
Planning for natural hazards, calls for local plans to include inventories, policies, and ordinances to guide development in hazard areas. These inventories should include the compendium of hazards facing the community, the built environment at risk, the personal property that may be damaged by hazard events, and most of all, the people who live in the shadow of these hazards.
Support for Natural Hazard Mitigation
All mitigation is local, and the primary responsibility for development and implementation of risk reduction strategies and policies lies with local jurisdictions. Local jurisdictions, however, are not alone. Partners and resources exist at the regional, state and federal levels. Numerous California state agencies have a role in natural hazards and natural hazard mitigation. Some of the key agencies include:
- The Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) is responsible for disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and the administration of federal funds after a major disaster declaration;
- The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), gathers information about earthquakes, integrates this information on earthquake phenomena, and communicates this to end-users and the general public to increase earthquake awareness, reduce economic losses, and save lives.
- The California Division of Forestry (CDF) is responsible for all aspects of wildland fire protection on private, state, and administers forest practices regulations, including landslide n1itigation, on non-federal lands.
- The California Division of Mines and Geology (DMG) is responsible for geologic hazard characterization, public education, the development of partnerships aimed at reducing risk, and exceptions (based on science-based refinement of tsunami inundation zone delineation) to state mandated tsunami zone restrictions; and
- The California Division of Water Resources (DWR) plans, designs, constructs, operates, and maintains the State Water Project; regulates dams; provides flood protection and assists in emergency management. It also educates the public and serves local water needs by providing technical assistance.
Information in the Mitigation Plan is based on research from a variety of sources. Staff from the City of West Covina conducted data research and analysis, facilitated steering committee meetings and public workshops, and developed the final mitigation plan. The research methods and various contributions to the plan include:
Input from the Steering Committee:
The Hazard Mitigation Steering Committee convened every 2 weeks to guide development of the Mitigation Plan. The committee played an integral role in developing the mission, goals, and action items for the mitigation plan. The committee consisted of representatives of public and private agencies and organizations in City of West Covina, including:
City of West Covina Community Development Commission
City of West Covina Communications Department
City of West Covina Community Services Department
City of West Covina Emergency Services
City of West Covina Environmental Management Department
City of West Covina Finance Department
City of West Covina Fire Department
City of West Covina Information Services
City of West Covina Planning Department
City of West Covina Police Department
City of West Covina Public Works Department
City of West Covina Office of the City Attorney
City of West Covina Risk Management
Covina Valley Unified School District
West Covina Unified School District
City staff conducted 23 interviews with individuals and specialists from organizations interested in natural hazards planning. The interviews identified common concerns related to natural hazards and identified key long and short-term activities to reduce risk from natural hazards. A complete listing of all stakeholders is located in Appendix B. Stakeholders interviewed for the plan included representatives from:
Citrus Valley Health Partners
State and federal guidelines and requirements for mitigation plans:
City of Covina
City of Irwindale
City of Walnut
City of West Covina Chamber of Commerce
City of West Covina residents
Covina Valley Unified School District
Doctor's Hospital of West Covina
East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupation Center
Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management
Los Angeles County Public Works
Montessori Academy of West Covina
Mount San Antonio College
Saint Christopher School
South Hills High School
Southern California Edison
Suburban Water Systems
Walnut Unified School District
West Covina High School
West Covina Unified School District
West Covina United Methodist
Following are the Federal requirements for approval of a Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan:
- Open public involvement, with public meetings that introduce the process and project requirements.
- The public must be afforded opportunities for involvement in: identifying and assessing risk, drafting a plan, and public involvement in approval stages of the plan.
- Community cooperation, with opportunity for other local government agencies, the business community, educational institutions, and non-profits to participate in the process.
- Incorporation of local documents, including the local General Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, the Building Codes, and other pertinent documents.
The following components must be part of the planning process:
- Complete documentation of the planning process
- A detailed risk assessment on hazard exposures in the community
- A comprehensive mitigation strategy, which describes the goals & objectives, including proposed strategies, programs & actions to avoid long-term vulnerabilities.
- A plan maintenance process, which describes the method and schedule of monitoring, evaluating and updating the plan and integration of the All Hazard Mitigation Plan into other planning mechanisms.
- Formal adoption by the City Council.
- Plan Review by both State OES and FEMA
These requirements are spelled out in greater detail in the following plan sections and supporting documentation.
A minimum of two public forums is recommended to meet the requirement for public participation, in addition to the inclusion of representatives from outside organizations on the planning committee itself. The timing and scheduling of the workshops may vary from one community to another depending on how each city's committee organizes its work and the particular needs of the community.
City of West Covina staff examined existing mitigation plans from around the country, current FEMA hazard mitigation planning standards (386 series) and the State of California Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan Guidance.
Other reference materials consisted of county and city mitigation plans, including:
Clackamas County (Oregon) Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan
Six County (Utah) Association of Governments
Upper Arkansas Area Risk Assessment and Hazard Mitigation Plan
Urbandale-Polk County, Iowa Plan
Hamilton County, Ohio Plan
Natural Hazard Planning Guidebook from Butler County, Ohio
Hazard specific research: City of West Covina staff collected data and compiled research on five hazards: earthquakes, earth movements, flooding, wildfires and windstorms. Research materials came from state agencies including OES, and CDF. The City of West Covina staff conducted research by referencing historical local newspapers, interviewing long time residents, long time City of West Covina employees and locating City of West Covina information in historical documents.
The City of West Covina staff identified current mitigation activities, resources and programs, and potential action items from research materials and stakeholder interviews.
The City of West Covina staff facilitated two public workshops to gather comments and ideas from West Covina citizens about mitigation planning and priorities for mitigation plan goals. The first workshop held July 21st, 2004, attracted three citizens, and the second, held August 26th, 2004, brought in four citizens.
The resources and information cited in the mitigation plan provide a strong local perspective and help identify strategies and activities to make the City of West Covina more disaster resilient.
How Is the Plan Used?
Each section of the mitigation plan provides information and resources to assist people in understanding the City and the hazard-related issues facing citizens, businesses, and the environment. Combined, the sections of the plan work together to create a document that guides the mission to reduce risk and prevent loss from future natural hazard events.
The structure of the plan enables people to use a section of interest to them. It also allows City government to review and update sections when new data becomes available. The ability to update individual sections of the mitigation plan places less of a financial burden on the City. Decision-makers can allocate funding and staff resources to selected pieces in need of review, thereby avoiding a full update, which can be costly and time-consuming. New data can be easily incorporated, resulting in a natural hazards mitigation plan that remains current and relevant to City of West Covina.
The mitigation plan is organized in three volumes. Volume I contains an executive summary, introduction, City profile, risk assessment, multi-hazard goals , and plan maintenance sections. Volume II contains five natural hazard sections and Volume III includes the appendices. Each section of the plan is described below.
Volume I: Mitigation Action Plan
Executive Summary: Five-Year Action Plan
The Five-Year Action Plan provides an overview of the mitigation plan mission, goals, and action items. The plan action items are included in this section, and address multi-hazard issues, as well as hazard-specific activities that can be implemented to reduce risk and prevent loss from future natural hazard events.
Section 1: Introduction
The Introduction describes the background and purpose of developing the mitigation plan for the City of West Covina.
Section 2: Community Profile
This section presents the history, geography, demographics, and socio-economics of City of West Covina. It serves as a tool to provide an historical perspective of natural hazards in the city.
Section 3: Risk Assessment
This section provides information on hazard identification, vulnerability and risk associated with natural hazards in the City of West Covina.
Section 4: Multi-Hazard Goals and Action Items
This section provides information on the process used to develop goals and action items that cut across the five natural hazards addressed in the mitigation plan.
Section 5: Plan Maintenance
This section provides information on plan implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Volume II: Hazard Specific Information
Hazard-Specific Information on the five chronic hazards is addressed in this plan. Chronic hazards occur with some regularity and may be predicted through historic evidence and scientific methods. The chronic hazards addressed in the plan include:
Section 6: Earthquake
Section 7: Earth Movement (Landslide / Debris Flow)
Section 8: Flooding
Section 9: Wildfire
Section 10: Windstorm
Catastrophic hazards do not occur with the frequency of chronic hazards, but can have devastating impacts on life, property, and the environment. In Southern California, because of the geology and terrain, earthquake, earth movement, flooding and wildfire also have the potential to be catastrophic as well as chronic hazards. For the coastal areas of Southern California, tsunamis, while very rare, have the potential to calamitously devastate low-lying coastal areas. It is not expected that the City of West Covina would be directly impacted by a tsunami. The impact a tsunami would have on the region would most likely have some related trickle-down effect on the City of West Covina.
Likewise for volcanic activity, all though there are volcanic ranges in the Mojave Desert area, the eastern Sierras, and northern California; there is no known volcanic activity that would have a direct impact on the City of West Covina. Like a tsunami, if other areas are greatly impacted by volcanic activity we would expect some domino effect to be felt in the communities of southern California.
Each of the hazard-specific sections includes information on the history, hazard causes and characteristics, hazard assessment, goals and action items, and local, state, and national resources.
Volume III: Resources
The plan appendices are designed to provide users of the City of West Covina Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan with additional information to assist them in understanding the contents of the mitigation plan, and potential resources to assist them with implementation.
Appendix A: Plan Resource Directory
The resource directory includes City, regional, state, and national resources and programs that may be of technical and/or financial assistance to City of West Covina during plan implementation.
Appendix B: Public Participation Process
This appendix includes specific information on the various public processes used during development of the plan.
Appendix C: Benefit Cost Analysis
This section describes FEMA's requirements for benefit cost analysis in natural hazards mitigation, as well as various approaches for conducting economic analysis of proposed mitigation activities.
Appendix D: List of Acronyms
This section provides a list of acronyms for City, regional, state, and federal agencies and organizations that may be referred to within the City of West Covina Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan.
Appendix E: Glossary
This section provides a glossary of terms used throughout the plan.
Section 1 - Introduction Endnotes