A plan to have the Army Corps of Engineers alter the Los Angeles River for the purpose of ecosystem restoration was approved by a Los Angeles City Council committee. The $8.1-million approved plan is part of the larger $1.6-billion effort to revitalize an 11-mile stretch of the river and return it from the concrete channel it is to a more natural state.


Under the proposed plan, the Army Corps and the city’s bureau of engineering would begin the preliminary work for the 500-foot-long terrace bank that will sit along the western bank of the river, from North Main Street to East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in downtown. Since the project will include ripping out the concrete banks, the Army Corps will study hydrologic and hydraulic conditions in the river — to see how the river will flow if the concrete is removed — using a computer model. The plan also includes an analysis on how to connect the river to the new L.A. State Historic Park in Chinatown.


In January, the city began the process to purchase a 42-acre parcel valued at $59.3 million along the Los Angeles River. The lot, known as Taylor Yard, is a former rail yard owned by Union Pacific, which hosted train maintenance and fueling operations. The Taylor Yard project is complementary to the $1.4 billion restoration plan and the city plans to convert it into park space, wetlands, and other amenities.


Estimates say it will cost $252-million to transform the lot into clean park space. So far, the city has secured around $22 million and are expecting at least $25.4 million from the federal government. The Taylor Yard is considered the “crown jewel” of the revitalization project.


However, the future of the entire project still remains unclear due to funding. In 2013, the city council voted to split the costs evenly with the federal government — 50/50 — which at the time was estimated to be $1 billion. The costs have grown to $1.6 billion since the initial vote and the Army Corps has only agreed to pay 20%. There is also speculation and concern that the Trump administration will withhold funding for environmental initiatives.


Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the Arts, Entertainment, Parks and Rivers Committee, which approved the new plan, said he would not support the city paying more for the project. “My position is still we will not put the city on the hook for anything more than the 50/50 match we agreed to in 2013, O’Farrell said.


Recent analyses warned that unless additional funds can be identified, the city may shoulder as much as 76% of the financial burden for the restoration and recreation initiative. While the entire project is speculative, one thing is clear: the Los Angeles River revitalization project appears to be moving forward.


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