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Artist is one step away from building a water wheel on the LA River

It might be underway by the end of the year

Los Angeles water wheel which lifted water from Zanja Madre to the brick reservoir. Photo circa 1860.
Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Archive

It’s been about four years since we’ve heard from artist and Annenberg heiress Lauren Bon’s plan to return a giant water wheel to the Los Angeles River.

Much of that time has been spent acquiring the numerous approvals from multiple agencies required to pull off the project, KPCC reports. The news station says Bon already owns the land that would be used for the project, and has all but the last approval needed to proceed—a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to put a rubber dam into the river.

If that permit’s received in the next few months, Bon’s incredible project could be underway as soon as December.

The new water wheel would be positioned near the site of an original water wheel that, in the 1860s, directed water through the Zanja Madre, the original irrigation channel that brought water to LA back when it was still known as Pueblo de Los Angeles.

A 2013 sketch of the project.
Via City of Los Angeles

Bon’s Metabolic Studios is located across from the recently reopened Los Angeles State Historic Park in Chinatown.

Called Bending The River Back Into The City, the project involves installing the water wheel and a rubber dam along the LA River. The wheel and dam would capture water that would then be treated and used to irrigate the Chinatown park, as well as the forthcoming Albion River Park and nearby Downey Recreation Center.

"This is somewhat unprecedented," Michael Gagan, a partner at the public relations firm Kindel Gagan, which manages permitting for Bon’s major projects, told KPCC. "It conjures up all sorts of images. But the main point is to demonstrate that the river has beneficial use. It is not simply a water body that everybody turns their back on."

Correction: Due to incorrect information from KPCC, this post incorrectly identified Michael Gagan as an attorney. He is a public relations executive.