Author: Lena Smith
Where there should be natural banks, the Los Angeles River is encased in unsightly concrete walls. There is little – aside from spotty jogging paths – to attract Angelenos to its banks. The Army Corps of Engineers recently released a report exploring ways to bring the river back to life, proposing four potential plans. The most drastic of these proposals, Alternative 20, is the most costly, covers the most area of the river, and proves to be the only chance for the revival of the L.A. river. The one that most benefits Los Angeles, its people and its wildlife is Alternative 20.
These options were chosen as the most viable of countless proposals examined over the last six years as part of President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” program, which brings together federal, state and local agencies to restore and conserve America’s outdoor spaces. The plans all strive to restore 11 miles of the L.A. River without sacrificing vital flood control. Restoration would make the river less hazardous by increasing flood storage (the amount of floodwater that can be stored away from the river) by widening the river. This keeps the water level manageable and decreases the velocity of the flowing water. In each case, natural habitats for river-dwelling animals would be built on top of the existing concrete barriers. In addition, the plans call for development on the river’s banks so that businesses such as restaurants and boutiques can open. The banks would be walkable and the river itself naturally beautiful.
While the government’s recognition of the river’s dire status and the Army Corps’ initiative to change are things to celebrate, the four possible plans would not prove equally effective and choosing the wrong one endangers the one chance the river has.
The alternatives are labeled in the report as 10, 13, 16 and 20, each proposing more restoration than the last. The Army Corps of Engineers tentatively supports the second-to-least ambitious project, Alternative 13, which would leave a significant portion of the river unchanged. But since the overall objective of the project is to make the river livable in the long run, going all-in is the only viable option. Alternative 20 would restore significantly more of the river than 13, or even 16, according to the Army Corps of Engineers’ report. Half-heartedly restoring the river under Alternative 13 is not worth the time and money it will require, while committing to Alternative 20 will prove to be an investment Los Angeles will benefit from for years to come.
Area authorities and citizen organizations have also voiced support for Alternative 20. Mayor Garcetti, the L.A. City Council and a number of advocacy groups are pushing strongly for Alternative 20, according to the Los Feliz Ledger.
“It offers the chance to transform the landscape of our City and to restore respect to an incredibly valuable natural and cultural heritage resource in our midst: the Los Angeles River,” L.A. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said.
Hundreds of people attended the Army Corps of Engineers’ presentation on the possible plans on Oct. 17. There, public comments overwhelmingly supported Alternative 20, according to a video of the hearing posted by the advocacy group Friends of the L.A. River. The majority of public supports Alternative 20, and the final decision should be based on public opinion, because Angelenos are going to be directly affected by and paying for the restoration.
One drawback of Alternative 20 is that it costs over $1 billion, over $600,000 more than Alternative 13. However, a combination of local and federal support can fund the project. The city would foot close to half of the bill, using some of the $40 billion allocated to transportation and traffic relief by Measure R. In addition, Mayor Garcetti has spoken successfully to President Obama about receiving supplemental federal funding, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
With this funding, Alternative 20 would prove to be most beneficial to Los Angeles, its people and its wildlife. A partial restoration, as Alternative 13 proposes, would leave Angelenos with a significant amount of the river lifeless. With the means available in Alternative 20, the river can become a showpiece of nature and culture; a lively and beautiful community resource for Los Angeles.
Lena Smith is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WklyLSmith.
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