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article imagePast comes back to haunt as Los Angeles River banks raised

By Karen Graham     Jan 10, 2016 in Environment
Los Angeles - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received emergency funding to erect temporary barriers along the banks of the Los Angeles River to protect against flooding from the extreme weather brought about by this year's El Nino.
Instead of the typical headlines detailing drought conditions in California, a complete about-face in weather-related events has taken place, with Los Angeles now fearful the dribbling stream they call the Los Angeles River becoming a serious flood threat.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on Friday it was getting $3.1 million in emergency funding from the federal government for the construction of temporary barriers along a three-mile stretch of the river north of downtown spanning the east side of Griffith Park to Elysian Valley paralleling Interstate 5 near the city's border with Glendale.
However, according to the LA Times, the Corps has still not received the $4.5 million it requested to clean debris and do other flood-control work along the river. Apparently, county officials were shocked to learn last Monday the corps had not received the money.
County officials were left to do some scrambling, writing letters to Congress and to the assistant secretary of the Army, demanding something be done immediately. County staff were also taken to task for not letting higher-ups know about the situation sooner.
The barriers are similar to giant sandbags, made of fabric with a wire-mesh structure, and are filled with soil. Lt. Col. Kirk Gibbs, Los Angeles district commander of the Army Corps of Engineers says the barriers arrived this weekend, and will be used to increase the river's channel capacity while reducing the risk of flooding.
"We're preparing for a worst-case scenario," he said. "We feel we need to do that, and we owe it to the residents." The barriers will add an additional four feet of clearance to the river's banks. There is a significant amount of vegetation in the river bottom, reducing the river's capacity in the area in question.
The past has come back to haunt the city
The very first Green Thumbs Up story published in November dealt with the ecological design of our cities. The focus was on how we have chosen to alter the environment to conform with our wants and needs when building our cities.
LA River near downtown LA during drought in 2014. The concrete-lined river is on the left of the pho...
LA River near downtown LA during drought in 2014. The concrete-lined river is on the left of the photo.
Alfred Twu
The result of that poor planning is happening today in Los Angeles. Decades and decades ago, the Los Angeles River was lined in concrete, altering its natural course and making it conform to the city's design. Now, most of the year it is but a trickle, and Los Angeles River has become the butt of jokes.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement this week, "Our river is unique—most of the year it runs nearly dry, and then during the rainy season, it runs in powerful torrents as we've seen this week." Garcetti defends past planning, citing the many lives lost, and the millions of dollars in damages from yearly flooding in the early 1900s.
Truth be told? The chances of an unprecedented rise in water levels in the river is questionable at this time, with officials saying it's unlikely runoff levels would reach capacity, reports to NBC Los Angeles. "If it floods there is a risk for significant damage," said Mayor Garcetti.
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