Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Regenerate the River

The US Army Corps of Engineers has just issued a restoration plan for the LA River that would punch through the concrete encasement of the 1940's over-engineered channels and provide for restoration of adjacent riverbanks and wetlands.This has become a priority because of the support at the Federal level through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The final plan for restoration is modest compared to the original big vision, but it does restore 11 miles of the river from Burbank to downtown LA. An interesting comparison are the photos of sections of the river paired with renderings of the proposed project.

There has been an emerging movement around the restoration of the LA River for decades, and it's grounded in the worldwide regenerative strategy of restoring rivers and their watershed areas and streams. As far back as the 1980's there was much discussion in the local design and arts community as well as local neighborhoods about revitalizing the river and restoring its watershed. This ended up as the LA River Masterplan after years of community planning. This is the kind of engagement with the river that has been happening in urban areas all over the globe, as they integrate with their rivers rather than turning their backs on it.

A patchwork of green parks has moved the Master Plan idea forward in many small projects over the years because of community influence and public policy, including financing for greening projects by the LA Public Works Department. These open spaces and parks have contributed to community engagement of public spaces as well as the regeneration of sustainable habitat.

A site that shows the projects done by North East Trees along the LA River is here.There's also a video from KCET that documents the Revitalization Master Plan. A project by the Council for Watershed Health includes the Elmer Avenue Retrofit.

The comprehensive overview of the LA River restoration plan from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles, announces the availability of a Draft Integrated Feasibility Report, which includes a Draft Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact. This will be available for a public review and comment period beginning this Friday.

Update: 9/19/13 interview with new Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell

Councilman Reyes had the LA River as his priority during his tenure. Is the LA River also one of your areas of interest?

Councilmember Reyes is a giant in the environmental movement along the river. He passed the baton to me as Chair of Arts, Parks and the River. It’s a great honor, and it’s of enormous importance to me personally. So much incredible work in planning and resource-finding has taken place at the river that we’re poised to become a real river city. There’s a very important feasibility study for which the decision will be announced on December 12. It is the US Army Corps of Engineers funding that we’ll get actually for the first time to remove concrete from the channelized river near the center of the city. We eagerly await that decision. It’s going to be the next and probably most important decision to face the river since the advent of FOLAR, the Ad Hoc River Committee, and the Revitalization Master Plan. It’s a really big deal, and it’s important for myself, my colleagues, and Gil Cedillo, the new councilmember in District 1. It’s important to all of us that we get this right and we’re very excited about this challenge.