• Joe Linton, Down by the Los Angeles River—the definitive guidebook
• Blake Gumprecht, The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth—the definitive history
• Ulysses L. Zemanova, Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River—art, biology, and stories, some of which are true. Wacky and lovely.
• Jenny Price, Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in L.A, Believer website—the Big Picture
• Patt Morrison, Rio L.A.: Tales from the Los Angeles River.
—Friends of the Los Angeles River site, w/info on tours, clean-ups, & other events
—City of L.A. master plan site
• LA Creek Freak—terrific blog on L.A.- area water issues
formed to persuade the city to revitalize a river it no longer knew it had. In 1996, L.A. County published a master plan with general guidelines. In 2007, the City of L.A. published an ambitious master plan to revitalize its 32 miles, from the headwaters in Canoga Park to the City of Vernon. Long Beach has a master plan as well, and is implementing it enthusiastically. And major projects are happening on the Arroyo Seco, Tujunga Wash, Compton Creek, and most other tributaries.
OK, So Good on Green Space. And the Second Big Benefit?
Clean water! We can only clean up the rivers, streams, and ocean if we can clean up the toxins and trash in our urban stormwater stew, for which the L.A. River is the main conduit.
What’s happening now? The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Santa Monica Baykeeper have joined forces to win two major legal decisions that require a massive clean-up. One, in 1999, with Heal the Bay, requires the EPA to ensure the establishment of Clean Water Act limits for many polluted waters in L.A. and Ventura County waters by 2013. The second, just this year, holds L.A. County liable for the heavily polluted runoff in the L.A. and San Gabriel Rivers.
Meanwhile, the 16 river-adjacent cities between Downtown L.A. and the Long Beach Harbor have been putting $10 million in federal stimulus funds to work to install trash screens on all 12,000 storm drains that carry water into the L.A. River. And—all the projects (below) to capture water will clean up the urban runoff, since minerals in the soils naturally bind up toxins as water seeps into the aquifer.
Not Bad at All. And the Third Big Benefit?
Water supplies! The ones we get from the sky! Want to remove some concrete? We can’t continue to direct most of our rainwater into the river. We need to capture as much of our rainfall as possible—not just near the river, but throughout the watershed.
To do that, we’ll have to redesign the gutters and driveways to direct the rainwater into soft ground rather than sewers. We’ll have to install porous pavement for sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots; green up our abundant asphalt playgrounds; and just generally green up the ground surface in L.A. wherever possible. We can direct the remaining floodwaters into basins that will double as parks and wetlands. In other words, we have to retrofit our infrastructure and green up L.A.
Bike lane follows the path of the river. 6 Symbiosis
I wouldn’t buy dynamite just yet for the concrete channel. Still, the projects to capture rainfall are proliferating all over the L.A. area, ranging from backyard rain barrels to large-scale plans and projects. Just last year, the City of L.A. passed a dramatic regulation that requires new development to capture the first 3/4 inch of runoff from a storm.
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