Your government at work. Eight new public initiatives (among many) that have been or will be essential to river restoration:
Proposition A (1992, 1996). The county’s big parks bond, a crucial early funding source, continues to make projects possible — from North East Trees parks and Maywood Riverfront Park to the upcoming Wrigley Heights park and the purchase of the River Center.
Proposition K (1996). City of L.A. source for greenway funds.
Proposition 204 (1996). The fund for river parkways in this massive state water bond helped fund the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s purchase of the River Center, and has funded the Coastal Conservancy’s essential studies of watershed and wetlands restoration.
Propositions 12 and 13 (2000). The mother lode — $4-plus billion in state funds for park and water projects. The parks bond (Proposition 12) is the first in 11 years, the largest to date, and the first that earmarks hefty percentages for urban and underserved areas (with a lot of credit to co-author and then–Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa). Last year, the props boosted river funding by over 2,500 percent. They make huge, pioneering projects — long dreamed of, like Taylor Yard and the Cornfield — newly possible.
ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) (less than poetic, but at least it’s called “Ice Tea”; 1991), TEA-21 (1998). ISTEA, the first major federal transportation bill to fund bikeways, and to treat “transportation” and “highways” as different words, and the re-authorization TEA-21 (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century), which significantly bumped up the bikeway funds, have funded the lion’s share of the grants the city of L.A. (through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority) is using to build its L.A. River Bikeway segments.
Standard Urban Stormwater Mitigation Plan (2000). Sexier than it sounds. The county’s first rules to control runoff require all new development and redevelopment sites to capture at least three-fourths of an inch of the water that falls within a 24-hour period, and to send it into the ground or clean it before releasing it.
Clean Water Act standards (TMDLs — total maximum daily loads) (1999). The 1972 act’s requirement that all the states set time lines for cleanups had never been enforced — but the settlement of a lawsuit in SoCal against the EPA (by Natural Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay and Santa Monica Baykeeper) now requires California to set new schedules to achieve safe levels (TMDLs) for all pollutants (trash included — one of the first cases in the country) in all polluted water bodies in L.A. and Ventura counties by 2012. A landmark victory — even more so since George W. declared his intention to quash a similar national initiative that the Clinton EPA had hammered out with state water-quality managers over the last four years.
Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (1999). The entire L.A. River now enjoys one of two state conservancies (this territory includes the lower river; the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy covers the upper river) that can unite the cities, the county, and the gazillion other disparate interests up and down the river to purchase, create and improve open space and work toward watershed management. Many river advocates wanted, and would still prefer, a single conservancy. But this is a major step forward.