By City News Service
Army Corps of Engineers today 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.
The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council recently joined the new Alliance of River Communities, which is a group of neighborhood councils and community leaders that have an interest in the L.A. River.
Each of the Army Corps' plans involve 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 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 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 restoration at the "Cornfields" Historic State Park and the Arroyo Seco and Verdugo Wash confluences.
"True long-term restoration of the Los Angeles River cannot be achieved" without those sites, she said.
The Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution in August back that puts the city on record as backing Alternative 20 as well.
The report is 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.