Federal Study Now Favors $1B Los Angeles River Restoration Plan

Eleven miles of the Los Angeles River are going to get a whole lot greener over the next decade as federal agencies step up their efforts. photo: Joe Linton / Streetsblog L.A.

Eleven miles of the Los Angeles River are going to get a whole lot greener over the next decade as federal agencies step up their efforts. photo: Joe Linton / Streetsblog L.A.

With billions in federal funding for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension already on his accomplishments list, today it was Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s turn to bring some attention, meaning some money, to the Los Angeles River.

The federal Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been studying the river for nearly a decade and is in the process of making its recommendations to congress on what projects the feds should get involved in. USACE is now completing their study, called the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study. Where the USACE initially favored doing a limited series of projects, called “option 13,” Garcetti and others favored a more extensive series of projects, called “option 20.”

Option 20 is, of course, more expensive. Option 13 would cost $454 million. Option 20 will cost $1 billion.

Mayor Garcetti traveled to Washington D.C. and pressed for the more robust option 20. He sweetened the pot by committing the city to cover a greater share of the overall project costs. His efforts bore fruit. Garcetti’s role as federal rainmaker is impressive.

Today, at Elysian Valley’s Marsh Street Park, alongside the relatively-natural stretch of the Los Angeles River, Mayor Garcetti stood with fellow elected officials, federal officials and community leaders to celebrate that the USACE study will now favor option 20.

This doesn’t mean that there’s a guaranteed billion dollars to be spent on the river tomorrow. There’s actually no money attached to today’s announcement. Today’s announcement is sort of an approval to get in line for federal monies.

Well, more of a preliminary approval. USACE Colonel Kim Colloton mentioned today that the study results still go through the Corps review board and needs approval from the head of the agency. Once these steps are completed, anticipated by the end of 2014, then Los Angeles River projects make their way into the USACE’s budget, and funding needs to be allocated by the US Congress. 

Mayor Garcetti suggested that there might be some groundbreakings and “jackhammers” in a year or two, but that overall the project is likely to take “about a decade” to complete.

And that’s just 11 miles of a 51-mile long river, not counting tributaries. Option 20 has plenty of great parks and wetlands, but it only extends from Griffith Park to Downtown Los Angeles. The most ambitious project in this stretch will be removing nearly three miles of concrete levees along the former Taylor Yard railroad yard site.

At today’s announcement, longtime Los Angeles River poet-activist and founder of Friends of the L.A. River, Lewis MacAdams celebrated by adding a small twist to some lines of his poem To Artesia which reads:

The river
is a rigorous mistress,
but when you tickle her
with your deeds, you can hear her laughter
from beneath her concrete corset.

Today, MacAdams added:

Soon she won’t be wearing a concrete corset.
Maybe she won’t be wearing anything at all.

After celebrating this, Lewis MacAdams, Mayor Garcetti and Col. Colloton raised their joined hands and smiled for the cameras.

Celebrating increased federal commitment to L.A. River revitalization: (l to r) USACE Colonel Kim Colloton, FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Celebrating increased federal commitment to L.A. River revitalization: (l to r) USACE Colonel Kim Colloton, FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Like other big federal projects, including the River’s channelization during the 20th century, the Los Angeles River’s naturalization will take a long time. Today’s announcement brings it one big step closer to reality.

Additional river announcement coverage at the L.A. Times and KPCC.