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Weighing In on L.A. River ARBOR Study [Part Two]; Comment Period Extended

The public comment period has been extended for the gamechanging Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, also known as the ARBOR (Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization) Study. The deadline for comments is now November 18, confirmed Jay Field, Chief of Public Affairs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The extension is due to the timing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's EPA posting of the ARBOR Study on the Federal Register, which triggers the 45-day comment period. "Our schedule will not be impacted," said Field. "We will continue to work with the comments as we receive them."

As concerned citizens make their way through the report, we asked a few advocates what their thoughts are on the study. These statements, found below, could be food for thought, as you write down your comments on the study. Comments can be submitted via email. If you've chosen Alternative 20, you can add your voice online, or sign L.A. River Corp's Change.org petition.

The four alternatives that are currently being considered are:

  • Alternative 10, or ART (ARBOR Riparian Transitions), is the minimally acceptable alternative that costs $346 million. 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 13, or ACE (ARBOR Corridor Extension) is a $453-million project that include all the features of Alternative 10, and will increase habitat by 104 percent. 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. The Army Corps currently supports this alternative.

  • 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.


  • *****

    This week, we hear from Lewis MacAdams, co-founder of Friends of the L.A. River and one of the earliest voices raised in support of river revitalization; Omar Brownson, Executive Director of the L.A River Revitalization Corporation; and Giulia Good Stefani, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose work protects wildlife and communities burdened by environmental injustice.

    Here's what they had to say:


    Lewis MacAdams, co-founder of the Friends of the LA River (FoLAR)

    FoLAR supports Alternative 20 because it removes the most concrete from the walls and river bottom, creates the most habitat and does the most to reconnect the main stem of the river to its larger watershed.

    What would you say to the Army Corps backing Alternative 13 (ACE) option?
    I think the Corps' ARBOR study came out far more exciting, visionary and practical than any of us could have imagined. How much it will have cost to make it happen will be forgotten within a few years, but a restored river and a restored watershed will serve the city for centuries to come.


    Omar Brownson, Executive Director of the L.A River Revitalization Corporation

    We support the selection and implementation of Alternative 20. Selecting Alternative 20 would ensure the LA River is a conservation legacy of the 21st century, as opposed to Alternative 13, which inadequately meets the demands of ecosystem restoration and economic development. Alternative 20 is the only option that will create a publicly-accessible, cherished, and celebrated natural resource in our world-class city.

    How would the Alternative you've chosen affect the organization you're affiliated with or the neighborhood you work in?

    The Army Corps' L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Study's 11-mile scope from Griffith Park to Downtown is a vital component of L.A. River Corp's Greenway 2020 movement to complete a continuous 51-mile Greenway adjacent to the L.A. River. Terracing the banks is a chance to inspire our imaginations, build positive community investment and grow our regional economy. Alternative 13 would not provide that opportunity.

    What would you say to the Army Corps backing Alternative 13 (ACE) option?

    Alternative 20 would provide 425% more economic redevelopment employment and 400% more economic redevelopment income than Alternative 13. These benefits will transform the economies along the river corridor--the same economies that need jobs. But the benefits are not only economic, Alternative 20 would restore the Los Angeles River's habitat to its full potential.

    Is there an issue you think the Army Corps should have focused more on in the study?

    We commend the work of the Army Corps, but they missed out on an opportunity for economic and community development. When accounting for features such as accessibility, and best-integrating the river into the daily commutes, walks, and lives of Angelenos, Alternative 20 clearly offers the better value than Alternative 13. We don't want to make all these investments in the river and still have incredible barriers to accessing it.

    If there was something the public could do to help, what would it be?

    Beginning September 20, the 45-day public comment period opens. While the Los Angeles District Army Corps of Engineers understands the necessity of Alternative 20 for our region, we need to convince the rest of the nation, the headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that restoration of the Los Angeles River is necessary. The truth is, through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the federal government has sent a signal that reconnecting underserved urban communities to the LA River is a worthy national investment. Let's send a reminder through the public comment period -- L.A. deserves a restored, green, and integrated river.


    Giulia Good Stefani, Project Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

    We stand with our other river advocate allies and the City of Los Angeles in our firm support of Alternative 20 or RIVER (Riparian Integration via Varied Ecological Introduction). A movement has developed around the revitalization of the Los Angeles River, and the River has become an important symbol and major step in our City's exciting revitalization and re-dedication to being a healthy, connected, and green place to live. Alternative 20 is the visionary and far-reaching plan that would do that movement justice, give the people what they have worked for and asked for, and maximize access to the River -- as a wild resource -- for millions of Angelenos. Alternative 20 is the only alternative that would restore the western bank and provide a hydrological link to the Los Angeles State Historic Park (or Cornfield park), a park that serves the downtown and Chinatown area and that NRDC has had a long commitment to supporting.

    How would the Alternative you've chosen affect the organization you're affiliated with or the neighborhood you work in?

    Alternative 20 has the largest increase in habitat, with more restored acres than any other alternative. It would have significant direct impacts on the Los Angeles State Historic Park (or Cornfields park) and Verdugo Wash, near the City of Glendale. We stood with our allies to create -- and we are committed to the continued development of--this important and historic open space, which serves the downtown and Chinatown areas. But more vegetation, habitat, and naturalized River bottom will benefit not just these specific areas -- it will benefit the entire River system.

    A river is a connected system, and the more riparian habitat, natural bottom, and restored wetlands you have, the healthier and more vital the entire system will be. We have also worked with others on and continue to work for the restoration of the Taylor Yard site, and that project would also benefit from the fullest implementation of the plan so as to create a riparian corridor and a habitat connection that connects the Santa Monica Mountains to the San Gabriel Mountains, the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean.

    What would you say to the Army Corps backing Alternative 13 (ACE) option?

    Alternative 13 is a disappointing choice that does not reflect the sort of visionary and long-term thinking this City and its residents have called for.

    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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