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BILLIONS NEEDED TO FIX COUNTY ILLS.

Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

Los Angeles County's aging government-owned infrastructure needs at least $6.7 billion - and possibly as much as $304 billion - in improvements and upgrades, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report comes just months after the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the area's infrastructure an overall grade of C-plus and estimated $50 billion in improvements are needed.

``In order to bring public works-owned or -maintained infrastructure up to an overall recommended grade of B, it is estimated that an initial investment of between $6.7 billion and $304 billion would be necessary,'' county Public Works Director Donald L. Wolfe wrote in the report.

The range is primarily due to varying estimates of the cost of improving the county's urban runoff systems, which are almost entirely under the control of the county Department of Public Works.

A 2002 University of Southern California study estimated up to $284 billion would be needed to build 65 facilities to treat 70 percent to 97 percent of the annual rainfall in the county.

But a 2004 USC study estimated that increased street sweeping could help address runoff quality and would only cost $3 billion.

Wolfe estimated it would cost up to $300 million a year to improve the urban runoff grade from its current grade of D to an A, but the department only has $65 million in annual funding available.

The county report was issued Wednesday in response to a November request by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich for the Department of Public Works to compare how its infrastructure stacks up to ASCE's countywide infrastructure grades.

In its own report card, Public Works gave its facilities an overall grade of C-plus, with bridges, dams, flood control and transit facilities and the wastewater system getting B grades.

Drinking water and streets and highways got C grades while urban runoff got the lowest grade of D. The grades are higher than the overall ASCE grades for Orange County and the nation.

``In some areas we are stronger and in other areas we have infrastructure needs that we have been aware of and are working to close the gap,'' said Bill Higley, Public Works' deputy director.

The grade for streets and highways has dropped from a C-plus in 2002 to a C after millions of dollars in Proposition 42 gasoline tax funds from cities and counties were diverted to the state, Higley said.

``The pavement condition will continue to decline if the Prop. 42 funding to cities and counties is not fully restored,'' Wolfe wrote.

Although Wolfe said six of the county's 14 dams have been rehabilitated in recent years, he noted that the state Division of Safety of Dams has placed restrictions on six dams that don't meet earthquake-design standards.

The dams, built about six decades ago, include Big Tujunga Dam in the Pacoima area, Puddingstone Dam near San Dimas, Santa Anita Dam and Santa Anita Debris Basin near Arcadia, Big Dalton Debris Basin in San Dimas and Sawpit Debris Basin near Monrovia.

The county estimates it needs $150 million to $180 million to fix the dams.

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985

troy.anderson(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 5, 2006
Words:525
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