A Los Angeles City Council committee approved a plan that would for the first time see the Army Corps of Engineers alter the Los Angeles River for the purpose of ecosystem restoration.

The $8.1 million plan is part of a larger $1.4 blueprint to revitalize 11 miles of the river and return it from the concrete channel it is Thursday to a more natural state. The proposal would see the Army Corps begin preliminary work on constructing a 500-foot-long terraced bank on the west side of the Los Angeles River in downtown.

The Army Corps was called upon to create concrete channels for the river in 1938 following a series of devastating floods and has operated it since then.

“This project will be the first time the Los Angeles River is altered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the purpose of ecosystem restoration,” a city staff report on the plan says.

The plan would also see the Army Corps do preliminary work on connecting the river to the new Los Angeles State Historic Park in Chinatown and to analyze hydrologic and hydraulic conditions in the river, including using computer modeling, to study how the river would flow when the concrete is removed. The city and federal government will split the cost of the project 50/50.

In January, the city completed the purchase of 42 acres of land valued at $59.3 million along the Los Angeles River. The Taylor Yard project is complimentary to the $1.4 billion restoration plan and the city plans to convert it to recreational and green space. However, the future of the larger project remains unclear due to funding.

The council voted in 2013 to split the cost with the federal government on the full river project, which at the time was estimated to be $1 billion. The estimated cost has grown to $1.4 billion since then, and the Army Corps has only agreed to pay 20 percent.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the Arts, Entertainment, Parks and River Committee, which approved the new plan Wednesday, said in January 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.

—City News Service

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