No more jokes about how the Los Angeles River is more just a soggy trash chute than a place of nature, OK? Got it?
… “fundamentally establishes that in the eyes of the State of California, the Los Angeles River is a river, not just a flood control channel; and must be treated that way by Los Angeles County.”
That means you, too, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
The rebellious L.A. River was handed over to the Corps sometime in the 1930s, back when it was killing off hundreds of Angelenos by overflowing from its soft banks every winter. So the feds took drastic measures, bathing the riverbed in concrete and turning it into the flood channel it is today. (Or was, until SB 1201 went through.) Via TheLARiver.com:
Thousands of workers used more than three million barrels of concrete to straighten, deepen and constrain the river between immovable banks. By the time the channelization was complete, the natural and historic Los Angeles River, which for centuries had sustained the inhabitants on its shores, had essentially disappeared.
For the past couple decades, though, environmental groups like FoLAR (who essentially wrote this bill, then got it sponsored by Senator Kevin de León) have been taking tourists and locals on canoe trips, hosting L.A. River cleanups, educating neighbors about L.A. River wildlife and otherwise convincing the skeptics that a glimmer of nature still flickers within.
Now, they have the official language of California law on their side.
The way we're reading SB 1201, the L.A. County Department of Public Works will heretofore be required to prioritize public use of the river, including swimming (!) and other recreational activities. That's because, according to the bill…
… the river is subject to Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution, which guarantees the public a right of access to the navigable waters of the state that must not be obstructed by any individual, partnership, or corporation, and to case law protecting the public trust. Therefore, the river must be held in trust for the public and managed for public access and use.
(And that “navigable” part was solidified in summer 2010, when the federal government kindly gave our flood channel the protections of the Clean Water Act.)
What a proud moment for this harsh concrete half-tube we've so come to love, in spite of its fugliness! Now, a walk down memory lane: “20 Most Embarrassing Things Found in the Los Angeles River by Cleanup Volunteers.”