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Gamechanging L.A. River Study Released, $442 Million Plan Recommended

Eagerly awaited by water advocates in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study (or the ARBOR Study) is finally available to the public at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) website.

As speculated, the Army Corps is supporting Alternative 13, a comparatively less expensive $442-million project that would increase habitat by 104 percent according to the study. Work includes adding a side channel behind Ferraro Fields, widening of over 300 feet in Taylor Yard, and tributary restoration on the east side of the Arroyo Seco watershed.

"It presents the best value for the dollar in this constrained environment and meets all the objectives of maintaining the flood capacity and flood protection," said Army Corps Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kim Colloton.

Among the hundreds of alternatives, the Army Corps was partially able to winnow the plans down to four by carrying out an incremental cost effectiveness analysis that would show which option has the biggest bang for the buck. "Alternative 13 maximizes the net benefits: ecosystem and habitat restoration relative to the cost," added Jay Field, Chief of Public Affairs at the Army Corps. It essentially answered the question, "Is it worth it?"

The rest of the alternatives are:

  • Alternative 10, or ART (ARBOR Riparian Transitions), is the minimally acceptable alternative that costs $346 million. According to the study, it would result in a 93 percent increase in habitat. Work includes: minimal restoration at Taylor Yard, but not at the other confluences, widening of Taylor Yard by 80 feet with a small terraced area by the Bowtie parcel, restoration at Piggyback Yard.
  • Alternative 16, or AND (ARBOR Narrows to Downtown), is a $757-million project that includes the features of both Alternative 10 and 13 with extensive work on the Piggyback Yard. It would increase habitat by 114 percent.
  • Alternative 20, or RIVER (Riparian Integration via Varied Ecological Introduction), includes all the elements of previous alternatives with the restoration of the Verdugo Wash and the wetlands of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. Habitat would increase by 119 percent at the cost of $1.04 billion.

The Army Corps might see it thus, but Los Angeles river advocates and local government on the state and county level beg to differ. The City Council in support of the Mayor has expressed their full support of Alternative 20, citing the river's growing importance to the national agenda, as well as its role within the larger Los Angeles River Revitalization Masterplan.

Community organizations have announced a Los Angeles River Rally to be held at L.A. State Historic Park on Saturday, September 28 at 12 noon. "California lags far behind the rest of our nation in Army Corps-sponsored river restoration efforts. This is our only opportunity to get the best river restoration plan possible for the Los Angeles River. It's time for all Angelenos to rally around our cry: We want our RIVER...and we want it right now!" said Meredith McKenzie of the Urban Rivers Institute in a statement.

The rally is backed a number of groups, including: Arroyo Seco Foundation, L.A. River Revitalization Corporation, Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative, North East Trees, Anahuak Youth Soccer, Environment Now, Save LA River Open Space, Urban Rivers Institute, LAUSD Board Member Bennett Keyser, and LA City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo.

Though the Army Corps has already expressed support for Alternative 13, it opens the door for public comment, which runs from September 20 to November 5 to hear what the community has to say. A public meeting has also been scheduled October 17 at the Los Angeles River Center to discuss the study in detail.

The outpouring of support for one particular alternative won't necessarily sway the Army Corps' stand. "It's not a matter of how many people are for this one recommended plan," said Fields. It was about seeing if the report had missed any ecological or technological considerations while studying the area, which would then affect the final report the Army Corps would present to its Chief of Engineers. If approved, the plan would go to Congress for consideration.

The full ARBOR report can be read here. Details on the River Rally is available here. The public meeting will be held October 17, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Los Angeles River Center on 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles. Comments can be emailed to comments.lariverstudy@usace.army.mil from September 20 until November 5, 5 p.m.


Below are before and after renderings of key sites within the study area, as found in the report.

Before and After: Pollywog Park area of Griffith Park

Before and After: Arroyo Seco Confluence in Cypress Park

Before and After: Marsh Park in Elysian Valley

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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