Last Thursday night, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public hearing to discuss the fate of the Los Angeles River. Over two hundred Angelenos, Mayor Eric Garcetti, several state and local public officials, and representatives from a variety of environmental, public health, and community nongovernmental organizations—small and big, local and national—were there.
The Army Corps started the night with a presentation of the L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report. The Feasibility Report considers four different possible sets of plans to restore the 11 mile segment of the L.A. River from Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles.
The four plans—named Alternatives 10, 13, 16, and 20—include progressively greater areas of the River that would be restored. The Army Corps announced its tentative support for Alternative 13. The Corps justified its choice as the “Best Buy” and the most cost effective option. Army Corps Dr. Josephine R. Axt used the analogy of having to only pay a small amount to ride an elevator to the bottom floors but having to progressively pay more the further one takes the elevator up. The Corps wants to take the “L.A. River” elevator only half way up.
The Corps, however, was entirely alone in its support for Alternative 13.
Every single person that spoke during the public comment period—including Mayor Garcetti—voiced their unequivocal support for Alternative 20.
Alternative 20 offers the greatest opportunity to restore natural river functions, reconnect the river to major tributaries and its historic floodplain, and to ensure that the River Restoration Project is ecologically sustainable and environmentally just. You can read my public comments here. You can watch a video of the Corps' presentation and the public comment that followed here:
Alternative 20 is the only alternative that would connect the Verdugo Wash to the River, creating a habitat corridor from Griffith Park to the Verdugo hills. As several commentators pointed out, this corridor would afford the mountain lion living in Griffith Park, “P-22,” an opportunity to find a mate without having to brave the 405 and 101 freeways.
Alternative 20 would also connect the L.A. Historic Park (or Cornfields Park) to the River. The Cornfields Park serves the historically park-poor areas of downtown L.A. and Chinatown, and it is a park that NRDC has a long commitment to supporting.
The L.A. River is at the heart of a movement here in Los Angeles to realize a greener, cleaner, healthier, and more connected version of urban living.
The benefit of Alternative 20 cannot be measured, as the Corps suggests, by incremental gain. Connecting the Verdugo hills and the Cornfields Park to the River benefits not just those places but every single mile of the Project.
(Credit: US Army Corps, Feasibility Report)
You can help. Decades ago, it was the Corps that channelized the River, turning most of the River into the tepid, concrete, flood control channel we know today. Tell the Corps that it’s time to restore the River and that Alternative 13 just won’t do. Email your comments to Dr. Josephine Axt at the Army Corps by November 18, 2013: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Empire State Building is a 102-story building. Who travels to NY, NY to buy a ticket to the 51st floor? Nobody. We've come this far; it's time to take this project to the ecosystem restoration top: Alternative 20.