A new high school to serve students in the Castaic area moved a step closer to reality this week, as the Wm. S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board approved three consultant contracts to conduct environmental and geological studies on the chosen Romero Canyon site.
The district has approved a proposal by The Planning Center to complete environmental reports for the California Environmental Quality Assessment (CEQA), Geolabs-Westlake Village to perform more in-depth geological studies on the site, and RMA Group, Inc., to conduct a peer review of Geolabs’ findings.
The district has chosen The Planning Center (TPC) to prepare a formal Environmental Impact Report on the site. Preliminary studies completed during the district’s search for a final site will help speed production of the formal report and reduce the cost. The report will deal with such issues as aesthetics, air quality, biological and cultural resources, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, noise and vibration, public utilities and services, and alternatives.
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The Planning Center’s role will be to work with existing district consultants to review all available studies, supplement work already done where appropriate, prepare documents to meet CEQA requirements and play a key role in completing the CEQA process.
TPC will also be responsible for preparing the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) and processing the document through the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and preparing Title 5 risk assessments, if necessary.
The consultant will prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Report, take public comments as required, and complete a Final EIR for submission to the state. The contract was approved at a not-to-exceed cost of $175,268, with the final cost expected to be lower as TPC is able to utilize extensive studies conducted during the district’s preliminary site selection procedure.
The environmental reporting process could take anywhere from six to 12 months, which is within the district’s timeline for opening the school in 2013 to its first class of ninth graders.
Geolabs-Westlake Village will make 36 investigative excavations to study potential landslide areas on the site. As part of the investigation, the firm will confirm the amount of material which will need to be removed in areas of deep alluvial deposits, consider the stability of a “tall” cut slope on the site, and study the potential for settlement of deep-fill areas.
“This is probably the single most important issue we are dealing with in regard to this site,” Assistant Superintendent Rob Gapper told the Governing Board. Borings up to 200 feet deep are expected to reveal the nature of the landslides and suggest measures that can be taken to mitigate the geological issues.
Borings and excavation, and the associated laboratory testing, are expected to take eight to nine weeks. An additional four weeks is proposed to complete a report on the firm’s findings. Cost is estimated at $260,000, to be funded by the district’s Measure SA school construction bonds.
RMA Group, Inc. will perform the necessary peer review of site geotechnical studies to be conducted by Geolabs. RMA also will perform field observations on location while borings, core samples and trenching are completed by Geolabs and will assess site issues related to landslides, deep alluvial deposits, deep fill settlement and tall cut slope stability as Geolabs crews conduct exploratory excavation. RMA will monitor the exploration and act as liaison for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and the State of California.
RMA will meet with the district, the Romero Canyon owner and consultants to provide status updates, including governmental agency reviews. Cost is estimated at $31,090 from Measure SA funds.
Selection of the three consultants is in line with the Hart District Governing Board’s focus on completing environmental and geological studies as soon as possible in order to have a school ready to receive an initial ninth grade class in the fall of 2013.