After eight years of study, the Army Corps of Engineers has finally released its proposal to restore 11 miles of the LA River between Griffith Park and Downtown. The report considers four options, each with the goal of getting the river flowing again, "reestablishing riparian strand, freshwater marsh, and aquatic habitat communities and reconnecting the River to major tributaries," while maintaining the river's role in flood control and providing recreational opportunities. Back in July we learned that the Corps was weighing three options of varying degrees of ambition to do all this, the boldest of which would cost more than $1 billion. That had the support of the Corps's LA office, and was backed by the City Council in a vote last month, but was not picked today as the "tentatively selected plan." Instead they went with a much more modest version with an oh-so-sexy name: Alternative 13--or ACE to its friends.
ACE (ARBOR Corridor Extension) was the least ambitious (and came with the smallest percentage of federal funding) of the three plans laid out in July, but today's report included on additional even more scaled back, "minimally acceptable" option, which was rejected. Like the others, its primary focus is on environmental restoration (as opposed to fun stuff for us humans) because of the extreme destruction the area has seen. "90 percent of the region's riparian habitat including Valley Foothill riparian habitats and over 95 percent of the region's wetlands including freshwater marsh have been lost. What does remain is largely isolated and no longer connected to surrounding habitat resources." The tentatively chosen plan tries to make amends by:
-- restorating the channel along much (but not all) of the 11-mile length of river
-- widening an 80-foot stretch along Taylor Yard terracing the banks and adding "vegetated with overhanging vines and implanted vegetation," plus "significant" restoration of the freshwater marsh there
-- restoring of the historic wash at Piggyback Yard (but not a full redevelopment of the site)
-- increasing the amount of restored habitat by 104 percent
-- restoring connection to the Arroyo Seco watershed by "softening of the bed and banks with development of a riparian corridor in the tributary confluence and for one half mile upstream"
-- adding four miles of trails, a pedestrian tunnel at Taylor Yard, three bridges, two parking lots, three bathrooms, and 19 trail access points.
All that (and more) will cost an estimated $453 million. The report finds the two bigger plans "reasonably acceptable and supportable alternatives," but passes them over due to cost, asserting that the additional benefits the plan would bring are not worth the much higher price tag each comes with. But even the most ambitious of these plans is a scaled down version of what was once considered--the original plan was to restore all 32 miles of river within the city's borders. Remember, all this is necessary in large part because Corps concreted up the river in the 1930s to help with flood control. The plan is now open for comment.
· LA River Study [Official Site]
· LA River Rising Archives [Curbed LA]