The Army Corps of Engineers has unveiled four options for restoring the natural habitat on an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River.
Most of the 51-mile-long river, which stretches from the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, was paved and turned into a concrete flood channel during the first half of the last century.
While the channel kept the river from overflowing, the transformation destroyed much of the habitat for birds, amphibians and other wildlife around it.
The Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study details the environmental impacts and costs of four options – ranging in cost from $375 million to more than $1 billion – designed to return sections of the river, from Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles, to its natural state.
Each of the plans involves re-introducing layers of natural habitat over existing concrete barriers at sites along the waterway. Sites that may be affected by the plans include Taylor Yard and the Verdugo Wash.
Engineers have tentatively recommended the second most conservative option, Alternative 13, which costs about $453 million and would restore about 588 acres of wildlife and aquatic habitat. The federal government would pay about 30 percent of the bill, less than would be required under some of the other alternatives. The city of Los Angeles would have to make up he difference, including buying land needed to complete the project.
“The number one priority of the study is to restore the river’s ecosystem while preserving the flood protection that is provided by the existing channel system,” said the Army Corps’ District Commander Col. Kim Colloton.
“Hundreds of ideas were explored, and the best of these were combined to come up with the final array of alternatives in the draft report,” Colloton added. After studying each plan, they found Alternative 13 “most reasonably maximizes net restoration benefits.”
The Los Angeles River restoration effort was one of seven picked as part of the Urban Water federal Partnership, an urban waterway revitalization program launched under President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
The public will have 45-days starting tomorrow, Sept. 20 to comment on the report before the Army Corps makes its recommendation to Congress. The public can begin submitting comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are asking for comments on all four alternatives, and the Corps will consider every comment before a final recommendation is made” Colloton.
A coalition of Los Angeles River advocates, however, have their eye on a more ambitious plan and are pushing for Alternative 20, which would cover the most sites at an estimated cost of $1.08 billion.
Meredith McKenzie of the Urban Rivers Institute said the Army Corps’ study “does not go far enough.”
Alternative 13 does not include full restoration at the “Cornfields” Historic State Park and the Verdugo Wash confluences. The plan does call for widening the river near the area in Glassell Park known as Taylor Yard to create a freshwater wash, and for removing concrete from the river bottom at the Arroyo Seco confluence, and restoring the historic wash at Piggyback Yard near Union Station.
Advocates say they are disappointed that the Army Corps recommended plan does not include provisions for creating better accessibility to the river, or for creating much needed open space in the city’s highly dense river corridor.
The Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution in August back that puts the city on record as backing Alternative 20 as well. On Saturday, a rally will be held at the Los Angeles State Historic Park to stir up support for Alternative 20, which would require a much larger investment by the federal government. There will be exhibits and entertainment, speeches and an effort to convince people to submit comments supporting Alternative 20, and to lobby local congressional representatives to push for the preferred plan.
The report is available at http://www.spl.usace.army.mil. Hard copies will be available at the Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library, Los Angeles Central Library, Cypress Park Branch Library, Atwater Village Branch Library, Lincoln Heights Branch Library, Chinatown Branch Library, Little Tokyo Branch Library and Benjamin Franklin Branch Library.