Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The City Council signed off Tuesday on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to restore an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River, clearing the way for design and pre-construction work to begin after more than a decade of advocates and public officials pushing for the idea.

The council approved findings of an environmental study of Alternative 20, which proposes about $1.3 billion of improvements to the river and adjacent areas, including restoration the area’s natural river habitat.

Much of the 51-mile-long Los Angeles River was covered in concrete during the early part of the last century so it would function as a storm channel, but interest in recreational and natural uses of the river has renewed in recent years.

With the approval of the environmental studies, the city is expected to consider next a request to match $400,000 that was recently earmarked by the federal government to cover pre-construction, engineering and design work on the river restoration plan.

The city’s bureau of engineering will be partnering with the Army Corps on the design work that will determine the timeline and details of the Alternative 20 projects, which span a segment of the river between Burbank and downtown Los Angeles.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the Arts, Parks and River Committee, called today’s vote a “momentous decision” that comes after more than a decade of planning, but he said it will take many more years for the individual components of the plan to be realized.

“There are still land cost considerations, land acquisition considerations … but at least now we have a road map,” he said.

Other issues include making sure costs are shared equitably among the various agencies involved, with the costs of the plan meant to be split 50-50 between the city and the federal government.

O’Farrell said his “main objective is to deliver a fiscally responsible” project.

–City News Service

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