Feds Okay $1-Billion Los Angeles River Project

A segment based on this story was produced for KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected." Watch it here now.

The jury is in and the Los Angeles River's future seems to be bright. After more than six months of intense lobbying by the city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) has announced that it will be recommending a more ambitious $1-billion plan to restore an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River from downtown through Elysian Park.

"I was tenacious about this -- it's a big win for the city," Mayor Eric Garcetti said over at the Los Angeles Times. "As I argued in the White House over and over, it's the right thing for the ecology, it's the right thing for the economy and for kids growing up being separated from downtown by a concrete flood control channel."

Alternative 20 or the RIVER Alternative (short for Riparian Integration via Varied Ecological Introduction) is the most comprehensive of all options outlined in the $9.71-million study of the Los Angeles River initiated in 2006 at the behest of the U.S. Congress. Aside from increasing habitat by 119 percent, it incorporates all of the elements of previous alternatives along with the restoration of the Verdugo Wash and the wetlands of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. [Read up on the other alternatives here].

Before and After: Pollywog Park area of Griffith Park

Before and After: Arroyo Seco Confluence in Cypress Park


Though Alternative 20 provides for the most improvement along the concretized river, the Army Corps originally recommended Alternative 13, a $453-million project that would only increase habitat by 104 percent, add a side channel behind Ferraro Fields, widen Taylor Yard by 300 feet, and restore a tributary on the east side of the Arroyo Seco watershed. "Alternative 13 maximizes the net benefits: ecosystem and habitat restoration relative to the cost," said Army Corps spokesperson Jay Field previously.

It seems the city's single-minded focus and overwhelming support from various sectors for the more ambitious alternative has managed to change a few key minds in Washington.
According to the LA Times, the cost for the proposal will be split evenly between the federal government and city and state. "The bulk of the federal money would come from the Army Corps, with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "looking to aggressively bring money to the table as well," Garcetti said. "The rest of the money will come from local and state sources."

The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp. estimates that enhancing the 11-mile stretch of the river could kickstart as much as $5 billion in investment all along the 51-mile river over the next 10 to 15 years and generate up to 18,000 jobs.

Before and After: Verdugo Wash east of Griffith Park

About the Author

Carren is an art, architecture and design writer and an avid explorer of Los Angeles. Her work has been spotted on Core77, Dwell, Surface Asia, and Fast Co.Design. You can find her online and on Twitter. 
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