By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
T.R.E.E.S.TreePeople's remarkable plot to re-engineer all of L.A. to function as an urban forest and sustainable watershed. Relying, like a growing number of L.A.'s environmental visionaries, on computer modeling, it's at once tenaciously practical, surprisingly doable and insanely ambitious. A cost-benefit analysis combines modest retrofits on existing houses, schools, businesses, parking lots -- a cistern here, a grass schoolyard there, a redirected gutter, a porous sidewalk -- to create a larger water-management plan that is sustainable, saves energy, costs far less and creates jobs.
Headworks Spreading Grounds. A recharge project that diverts river water, lets it percolate down toward the aquifer and self-clean, then pumps it back up. The city discontinued its use in 1983 when Tillman began to discharge wastewater too dirty to self-clean into the river, but the plant now treats to a higher standard. The Department of Water and Power wants to reactivate this 30-plus-acre site, complete with a final-stage treatment plant. Plus it will add trails, a bike path and an outdoor educational center. And the wet-dry cycles create wetlands. And the recycled water is roughly half the price of imported Metropolitan Water District water. A departure for DWP, which tends to fence its properties off. (ETA if approved 2003)
Taylor Yard. The huge future park is an ideal place to control floods before they reach downtown. The omnipresent Coastal Conservancy is studying the feasibility of a detention basin and wetlands or uplands restoration -- and even of pushing back the levee to allow the river to move within a wider channel. Which options are doable will depend in part on the cleanup schedule for the soils and aquifer here.
The Cornfield. In the Chinatown Yard Alliance's park proposal (see Downtown), the grand meadow doubles as a detention basin for a major, 25-year flood.
Arroyo Seco -- another microcosm of the future. If you want to see the first chunk of concrete fly, then camp out here, because of all the waterways in the basin, the Arroyo is on the fastest track to full-scale watershed management. Why the Arroyo? It has significant green space and less dense development along its banks -- in other words, the prerequisites for sound water management that will take a long time to put into place on the L.A. River. A comprehensive study will begin by identifying the best sites for wetlands, stream naturalization, diversion basins, etc., and for a series of demonstration projects. It's brought to you by North East Trees with the Arroyo Seco Foundation, with funds from SMMC and the California Coastal Conservancy, a major funder of watershed projects on the river. (ETA study 2001)
High hopes abound that a new and improved Arroyo will become a model for the river. On an even larger scale, the new "Re-envisioning the Arroyo Seco Corridor" project -- brainchild of the new Occidental College°©led Arroyo Seco Collaborative -- will use studies and public programs to explore the Arroyo area as a showcase for improving livability and ecological sustainability in L.A.
Lower Arroyo Stream Restoration. Can concrete be removed safely or not? This 0.8-mile project has it both ways -- and models an alternative strategy to reconnect the river to its basin until full-scale watershed management can make the world of L.A. safe for concrete removal. It diverts Arroyo water into constructed streambeds on both sides (Browning-Ferris Industries built it in 1997 as mitigation for a landfill in the Valley). It leaves the concrete channel intact, but it's converted a barren, disturbed patch of weeds into a healthy wetland.
Wrigley Heights park. The proposals (see The South) include wetlands restoration.
DeForest Park. Long Beach is conducting a study with Coastal Conservancy funds to see (1) if it can restore a linear strip of wetlands from the park's south end all the way to Del Amo Boulevard, and (2) if the wetland will clean the urban runoff enough for use in irrigation. Ideally, the city wants to see a nature center too. (ETA if feasible 2006)
Dominguez Gap. Public Works is looking into whether it can re-engineer these two existing basins (45 to 50 acres) to enhance recharge but also restore wetlands. With education programs and viewing areas. (ETA if feasible 2004)
Golden Shore Marine Biological Reserve. A restored tidal wetland (see The South).
Sixth Street. Long Beach will restore four acres of wetlands, with paths from nearby Cesar Chavez Park and elementary schools. (ETA start 2002)
Wetlands restoration in Long Beach.These projects, if and when they're green-lighted, would create a string of restored wetlands along seven miles on the east side of the river. Ideally, the city wants to make this strip continuous.
LACDA (Los Angeles County Drainage Area) Walls.The flood-control project that sped up watershed management -- and that many hope will be the basin's last such single-purpose project. The original LACDA flood-control system, built in the 1930s to the 1960s ostensibly to hold a 100-year flood, didn't begin to imagine the massive future city of pavement. A 1992 Army Corps plan to raise the flood walls an average of 4 feet along the river's last 12 miles incited a wave of protests -- and a 1995 lawsuit brought by Friends of the L.A. River, TreePeople and Heal the Bay. Detractors argued that we can't just keep building a bigger concrete box, but have to begin instead to capture and recycle storm water. The lawsuit failed. But the battle raised public awareness. It pushed restoration advocates to get specific, engineer style, about alternative strategies. It generated a dialogue among all involved, and helped produce a roughly shared vision of watershed management. (ETA finish 2001)
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