Monday, August 2, 2010

Running Our River

There's been a lot of interest lately in the LA River and its watersheds due to public activism around the success of getting the river designated as a navigable waterway. It's a legal change but also an attitude change, which comes out of an emerging movement around the restoration of the LA River, and is grounded in the worldwide regenerative strategy of restoring rivers and their watershed areas and streams.

On July 7 of this year, the EPA issued a press release:

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced the Agency’s decision that will ensure more effective protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the Los Angeles River and for those who use the River for boating, fishing, and other recreational and commercial opportunities. The announcement strengthens future environmental protection for the entire 51-mile river and for small streams and wetlands throughout the L.A. River Basin, affirming the Agency’s commitment to urban communities and natural resources. The decision reflects years of work by EPA, in coordination with Federal, State, and local partners and the public, to strengthen future protection for the River and surrounding watershed.
Friends of the LA River - FOLAR - has been very active in bringing attention to the status of the river recently by kayaking through an area known as the Glendale Narrows. They have also produced a video, which has been publishing many articles about the restoration of the river and the community efforts behind reclaiming the natural waterways as part of the living fabric of the city. The Glendale Narrows is a prime area for restoration, and North East Trees is part of the effort, with a project underway. It's called The Riverwalk Project, and will be done in several phases.

These projects are being done as small, piecemeal efforts. The big vision for the river and all of its contributing watersheds have yet to be knitted together, although the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan has an overall planning and schematic concept in place. This involves waterway restoration, integration of parkways and access ways, green streets that return rainwater to the aquifers, native plantings and public parks. In this way, the city no longer turns its back on the river, but rather opens up to it and creates a focus for public spaces in a more natural terrain. In a similar way, Quebec City has succeeded in transforming old industrial riverfront into recaptured "greened" public space that is becoming a global trend in urban river restoration. The city of Seoul has also uncovered an urban stream and restored its path through the city.