In LA, a “Real” River May Soon Run Through It
A $100 million bond sets LA River revitalization in motion.
For those who live or grew up in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine the LA River as anything but a concrete wasteland that snakes 51 miles through the city, often filled with brown water, overgrown foliage and trash, or some unappealing combination.
But the sad truth is the river was once a beautiful unpaved waterway that stretched from Simi Valley all the way to Long Beach where it emptied to the sea. It was the primary water source for the native Tongva people prior to the Spanish arrival, and also served a blossoming city until the Los Angeles Aqueduct opened in 1913. Due to flooding concerns, a large portion of the river was paved with concrete.
According to an August 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times, the water in the river today is largely “industrial and residential discharge,” which originates from the “two giant pipes that collect the sewage from the homes of 800,000 San Fernando Valley residents” that lead to the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, “before crashing over a man-made waterfall into Lake Balboa. That body of water, along with two smaller ones, puts 23 million gallons of water a day into the river at Sepulveda Basin.”
Environmental groups, park advocates and city council members have long supported the removal of concrete and the restoration of natural vegetation and wildlife. Now that’s looking more and more like a reality thanks to bond money and non-profit group River LA’s dedication to completing a continuous 51-mile greenway and bike path along the river by the end of the decade.
According to a report in the Daily News, “$100 million is being made available through Proposition 1, a water bond approved in 2014. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will receive about $49 million and award the grants for the upper 40 miles of the river. The San Gabriel & Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy will oversee the same amount for projects along the lower part of the main river and tributaries.”
Many noted that communities along the full length of the river are expected to benefit from the funding, especially in less affluent communities, with California Senate President pro tem Kevin de León remarking that the $100 million “is an important milestone for Los Angeles and for efforts to reclaim and revitalize the entire 51-mile span of the LA River.”
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