The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the City of Los Angeles have finally found their confluence—coming together on an ambitious project to restore the Los Angeles River. The federal and local synchronicity arrived at the end of May, when Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced that the USACE would support a $1 billion proposal for the restoration of 11 miles along the Los Angeles River.
In recommending Alternative 20, the title granted the $1 billion version of the restoration, Assistant Secretary Darcy rescinded the USACE’s earlier recommendation of Alternative 13, which would have implemented a $442 million suite of projects. Each of those alternatives, as well as several others, are detailed in the Los Angeles Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report, released last fall.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti provided vocal support for Alternative 20 along with river and neighborhood advocates, circulating a petition and making multiple trips to Washington D.C. to lobby the USACE and congressional leadership. At the press conference following the announcement, Garcetti said that Los Angeles residents deserve the full restoration plan as proposed by Alternative 20. “It’s the right thing for the environment, the economy, and the people who’ve been living along a concrete channel,” said an effusive Garcetti.
Alternative 20 would restore 719 acres along an 11-mile stretch of the river between Griffith Park and Downtown. Three miles of concrete would be removed, and two confluences, the Verdugo Wash and the Arroyo Seco, would be restored. The plan includes several wetlands restorations, including those at the Piggyback Yards site—owned by Union Pacific and described by river advocates as the most critical site on the river—the Los Angeles State Historic Park (which would also include a terraced connection to the main stem), and Taylor Yard.
The recommendation by Assistant Secretary Darcy will inform the forthcoming draft of the Chief’s Report, the next step in the approval process for Alternative 20. According to an emailed statement from the mayor’s office, the USACE is expected to complete the Chief’s Report by the end of the year. The report will then go to Congress for authorization as part of the next Water Resources Development Act, and, again according to the mayor’s office, “Mayor Garcetti is already working with California Senator Boxer and Rep. Shuster on that process.” As for funding, Garcetti “is also urging the [White House Office of Management and Budget] to include the LA River in the budget.”