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Possible renovations in Lake Aliso’s future

Brenna Smith

Mills College is in the planning stage of renovating Lake Aliso, a campus site that has shrunk over the decades. If restored, the lake could be used as a teaching tool and as a way to make the College more eco-friendly.

Lake Aliso sits behind Founders Commons and connects to Lion Creek. In the past, students used the lake as a recreation spot, and the College irrigated the water.

However, the lake has been drying up since Interstate 580 was built in the 1960s, according to a March 2006 issue of The Weekly, now known as The Campanil.

Mills architectural assistant Brian Harrington, who runs the creek clean-up events on campus, explained what happened.
He said urban run off, which is water that goes across roads, roofs and other manmade structures, increases how fast water flows.

These high-speed waters pick up more sediment, which is carried into the creek and gathers upstream at the lake’s opening.

“The sediment chokes off the lake, and it shrinks,” Harrington said. This sediment build up also affects the creek because it disrupts the erosion process.

Harrington said that erosion can threaten infrastructures. In the past, Mills lost Lucie Stern Bridge and Lisser Bridge to erosion, according to The Weekly article.
One step Harrington hopes to implement is to build a sediment bypass, which is an open channel.

“A sediment bypass will help balance the erosion and sedimentation process downstream contributing to the stabilization of the rest of Lion Creek,” he said.

Other potential renovations include dredging the lake (removing and then relocating the sediment), repairing the dam and possibly getting new pumps and filters.

If the lake is back in running order, College officials like Interim Associate Vice President Campus Planning and Facilities Barb Haber hope to irrigate the water.

Sophomore Magee Page, president of the campus branch of Earth CORPS, is enthusiastic about irrigating Aliso because of the statewide water shortage.

“It’s a great way to reduce the water we’re getting from suppliers,” she said.

Officials involved also want to use the lake for acadmic purposes.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have an English writing class out on the grass by the water?” Haber asked.

Harrington hopes that biology and other science classes can use the site to teach about native plants or take water samples.

According to Haber, funding for the renovations is still an issue.

“We need to look outside of Mills because in this financial environment, Mills can’t do it,” she said.

She said that Mills is trying to apply for a grant through Prop. 84.

Prop. 84 is a 2006 California Measure that grants $5.4 billion in bonds for projects related to water and parks, according to the Smart Voter website.

Harrington said the Prop. 84 grant would be for creek and natural habitat restoration. However, he cannot say whether the lake will be included in this grant.

He said that all state grants are on hold now, but he will continue to work on a grant application.

Haber said that the renovations are still under review, but Mills will know the scope and cost of remediation sometime this year.