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Huge Water Wheel Might Be Renewed River's Iconic Public Art

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The LA River is on just a totally ridiculous roll right now (this month the Army Corps of Engineers will release a plan for a major makeover for the concrete channel), and the parks and the bike paths and the bridges are all awesome, but how about some enormous iconic public art that is also functional? Yeah, that's happening too: artist/Annenberg heiress Lauren Bon and her Metabolic Studio have a plan to install a 70-foot-tall steel and aluminum water wheel on the west side of the river, between North Broadway and Spring Street, at "one of the most heavily industrialized stretches of the river," as the LA Times describes it.

With the help of an inflatable dam, the wheel would raise 80 gallons of water per minute from the river and divert just a little into a new stream. Some water would also go into "a distribution network of pipes treatment facilities and storage areas for irrigation of city and regional parks, including the nearby 32-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park"; the rest would go back to the river. And the resulting stream would be landscaped with native plants like cottonwood trees, creating a shady little grove of about an acre in what's now a pretty gray and gross area. Eventually the stream could be extended to run along the length of the river down to Long Beach.

Bon had previously talked about calling the project "La Noria" (Spanish for "water wheel"); now she says the grove will be called "The Delta of Mt. Whitney," after part of the Sierra range, a major source of LA's water. She says the water wheel should "serve as a symbolic reminder that Los Angeles will always have to rely on limited water supplies delivered over long distances." It also recalls the past--it sits near the 1860s site of a wooden water wheel on the aqueduct that brought water to the original Pueblo.

Metabolic was originally hoping to open the project in time for the hundredth anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in November, but it's gonna be a while longer (a couple years?). The permitting process is underway--there are a number of agencies involved--and one of the consultants working on the project says "It's easier to permit a National Football League stadium downtown than to secure water rights for a water wheel next to the L.A. River." (Not a surprise.) Bon's Metabolic Studio (which is affiliated with the Annenberg Foundation) will foot the $10-million bill.
· Artist envisions water wheel transforming a stretch of L.A. River [LAT]
· LA River Getting Arty/Functional Water Wheel Near Cornfield [Curbed LA]