Army of Corps of Engineers backs $453 million plan to restore L.A. River

The federal agency that oversees the L.A. River today recommended a $453 million plan to restore nearly 600 acres of wildlife habitat – much of that located between Griffith Park  and Lincoln Heights –  as the best option to restore a waterway encased in a concrete flood control channel.  The recommendation, contained in a long-awaited preliminary report, is certain to disappoint many river advocates who had been in support of more ambitious and costly restoration efforts.

But the Army Corps of Engineers recommended Alternative 13, one of four plans under consideration, as the preferred way “to restore the river’s ecosystem while preserving the flood protection,” said District Commander Col. Kim Colloton in a press release. Colloton went on to say:

“Hundreds of ideas were explored, and the best of these were combined to come up with the final array of alternatives in the draft report,” she said.  “After evaluating each alternative, number 13 was selected as the National Ecosystem Restoration Plan that most reasonably maximizes net restoration benefits.”

At $453 million, Alternative 13 was the second, least-expensive option being considered, with the price tag for each proposal ranging from about $375 million to more than $1 billion.  The Army Corp’s recommended plan would have a significant impact in Taylor Yard section of the river near Cypress Park and Elysian Valley, where the river channel would be widened by more than 300 feet  “with significant restoration of the floodplain and freshwater marsh,” according to a summary.  Other elements of Alternative 13 include:

  • Major tributary restoration on the east side of the river  near the Arroyo Seco
  • Creation and restoration of riparian corridors and marshes on both sides of the channel near Griffith Park
  • Restoration of riparian habitat and historic wash at the Piggyback Yards in Lincoln Heights

The preliminary report will now be subject to a 45-day comment period before a final report is completed and a recommendation is sent to to Congress.

Click here for a copy of the preliminary report.


  1. This area is not safe for people. Please use the river in a very large group or please arm yourself before you go here. The river is a gang trap.

    • Please clarify your statement that the river is a gang trap. Do you mean the riverside, in the river itself, the bike paths, the bridges?

      • it’s a little sketchy. I took my 2 small children there last weekend since it was open to the public; we followed a path next to the river for about a hundred yards and I ended up fighting off a big bulldog that was guarding someones camp. i won’t be taking them back there again. this was right next to one of the clearly marked access points. scared the heck out of everyone.

  2. Please don’t characterize my neighborhood as you have. You are only spreading fear. This is a beautiful resource which will, little by little, be returned to us for our enjoyment–as long as we don’t live in fear.

    • It’s my neighborhood also… and it’s not a mischaracterization. I hope it’s restored to the beautiful resource you describe, but currently, it’s like a portal to hell.

      • PLEASE LEAVE. Most of us love this neighborhood and resent the disdain of outsiders like yourself and WE consider ANYbody who’ve only lived there since the 90s a whiny outsider. All you people do is complain even while everybody else wishes they lived here. Fear begets fear and prejudice. Either grow a pair or leave it to those grateful for the good fortune of being able to continue living, working, and playing in Elysian Valley . . . frog warts and all.

        • Really? You consider any person who has not lived in Elysian Valley for 20+ years to be a “whiny outsider”? That’s not called “loving your neighborhood” — it’s called being sociopathic.

          Live and let live. You can’t counsel against disdain and prejudice if you’re preaching disdain and prejudice.

  3. This is awesome! For anyone who “knows” the areas mentioned, this will help the area return to a more natural habitat. Cypress Park, Mt. Washington, and Glassell are by far my favorite green areas near DTLA. It also makes sense because the bike path travels through Elysian to Griffith Park on the South side – this is the area most people utilize already. On the North side it is even better because the paths are far more natural/ unpaved, I jog/walk my dogs here frequently without issue.

    There are those who live in fear; fear of anything different, fear of the unknown or the “other” in society. Then there are those who live fearlessly, who understand the world a little bit more in my opinion. I am of the latter kind. I like my neighborhood very much, save for the corporate jail looking high school on San Fern. Rd. Glad the fearful stay away from here – no room for fear/ignorance, there is plenty of that to go around pretty much anywhere, especially the already gentrified areas. So I appreciate the “gang problem” and “sketchy-ness” of the area. Keep it beautiful.

  4. “Portal to hell?” “Gang trap?” Yikes … well, all I can say is I ride
    my bike on the path along the river frequently, entering on Riverside by
    the Figueroa bridge, and I also go to Rio de Los Angeles State Park on a
    regular basis to walk. I live in Highland Park. I’m a middle-aged white
    woman, hardly a tough guy, but although I am well aware of the dangers
    of Frogtown, Cypress Park and surrounding areas, somehow over all these
    years I’ve escaped injury. In fact, I’ve escaped any sort of problem at
    all, ever. I love riding my bike on that path, I see families, couples
    walking, people exercising … all I can say is get ahold of yourselves
    and quit being such crybabies. One unpleasant or bad incident doesn’t
    make a whole neighborhood! Just use common sense (as in, don’t bike
    after dark) and remember that bad stuff happens everywhere, all the
    time. It’s just part of life, and if you never risk anything, well, as
    they say – nothing ventured, nothing gained. The more we law-abiding
    citizens use the path and the park, and frequent the streets, and care
    about the neighborhoods, the better they will be. Notwithstanding howls of “gentrification” and hipster hatred.

    • not sure about the other person who commented; I was talking about the paths that run through the trees at the waters edge. sketchy. won’t go back down there.

      the path up at the top is fine. my kids love the yard where the chicken and the chihuahua run around and play together.

      what would be great if they’re going to spend the money: get rid of all the invasive plants that have taken over the river bed (ornamental grasses and bamboo are everywhere), and planted vegetation that would grow there naturally.

      • That’s not bamboo. It’s arundo donax, giant reed. it would be astronomically expensive to eradicate it. The Pennesetum setaceum isn’t going anywhere either and it doesn’t cause enough harm to warrant eradication. Plus there are flocks of nutmeg mannikins that feed on the seeds.

  5. Most of these comments tell the truth about the river. It doesn’t take huge sums of money to restore the LA River….it actually is not restorable. Its a flood channel. The water is reclaimed sewage water along with street run off. That is never going to change. To make the river better all that is needed are common sense things…clean up the water, clean out the trash and keep it out, signage and security patrolling that all that’s needed. None of that however is as impressive as huge sums of money spent. We’ve seen huge sums of money spent already at the river on projects that are not maintained, that few other than gangsters and homeless frequent, a new couple million dollar park at the footbridge is visited by no one other than vagrants who are now vandalizing it and it was a total waste of taxpayer dollars. As for the bamboo stuff in the river bed several half hearted attempts have been made to remove it at huge sums of money. To do it properly requires removing the stuff by the roots but there is no efforts to do that as done properly the stuff is gone and no one can make money off it anymore.

    • You are right, the river is not restorable, we would have to get rid of all the structures in Elysian Valley. The water is grey water from Tillman. That doesn’t mean we can’t develop the area and make it an amazing green space. If we can make a river flow in LA in the summer, we can make a park people will want to go to around it. We need to give up this false backwards looking restoration mentality and create something awesome for future generations.

      • They have been developing the area along the river for years and it hasn’t made a difference. I have been going to the river since like the late 70’s, at least 4 times a week. Not too much has changed since I’ve been going there. This whole scheme is about money. The more money is spent on something that is not going to work, and that the taxpayers are going to be stuck paying on for more years than you can count the more the council people and those pushing these things can brag about how much they invested in the river. In addition to the bragging a goodly number of these people are pushing it because of the money they will make off of it. The recently concluded “pilot project” otherwise known as kayaking the polluted river was pitched as being “free”, the public was little involved in planning that mess, we were lied to about the signage and every other word was “free”. It was not free, it was never intended to be free it was planned and intended for a few people to make money off of and those few people made money and threatened those who protested what was going on. That program put unsuspecting people into the heavily polluted water, water that can make people sick, would you take a drink of LA River water?, and causes boils and infections in cuts and scrapes on the skin. I’ve seen what does to people have you? And I’m so sorry I have a “false backwards looking restoration mentality” but I see my mentality as being realistic.

        • You’re right, it wasn’t free, but it was massively fun and interesting and well worth the money. That trip made me look at the river in an entirely different way. I personally don’t recall the kayaking trips ever being advertised as free. Everyone knew there was a cost, that tickets sold out quickly, and that to get one you better go on-line the minute they go on sale. That’s why I bought my ticket while in the middle of a conference presentation in NYC! I got got plenty wet but gee, somehow I survived. Of course I wouldn’t drink water from the river, but honestly, calm down, no one got hurt paddling a kayak and getting splashed a little. Gosh.

          • Sorry Sara there was NEVER any mention at the two public meetings that were held, or in any publicity, about this ill planned program that there would the kayaking would be only by paid tickets. That came up when the thing started. As for “no one got hurt” you should be thankful for that. I know one lady got very, very sick from her kayak overturning and her falling into the water. The water is full of chemicals and bacteria. Be thankful that you did not have any cuts or scrapes on your skin that was exposed to the water. This kayaking thing was a novelty and many of those I have talked to about it have said they did it once but would never do it again.

          • Oh that’s interesting, someone got sick? who? I hadn’t heard about that. What did she get, giardia?

        • The river water isn’t nearly as polluted as people think it is anymore. I would eat fish out of it. I would drink it after running it through a filter and steripen just like I do with water from mountain streams.

          I wasn’t talking about you with the restoration mentality bit. You’re just a curmudgeon.

          • Ok SKR. I’m real sorry sir but you should look at some water quality reports on the river. Go ahead and eat all the fish you want and get a lot of heavy metals in your body and drink the filthy water. As for my being a curmudgeon I will be polite and not give my opinion of you.

          • Pretty much agree with all that you have said. I am on the bike path 4x a week. I ride. I see the “free” kayaks when they were doing it. I saw the city council glad handing each other with pro photogs and a pro looking kayak guy in the river. Shooting photos on ground level not to frame the graffiti or the trash in the surroundings. Wait until it rains and the tons of plastic bags stick to the trees and wont be removed for months. Whatever about the homeless. They never bother me. With regards to the gang epidemic of the LA River. All that I have seen is a lot of weed smoking from the teenagers. NEver have I been hassled. Now the LBC bike path. Different story.

    • To make the ‘river’ better – make it a river; make it more than a flood control channel. Sure, it’s not a true restoration, thanks to the flow from Tilman plant (and other plants upstream). But as Mulholland say the water “is there – take it.” If Tillman doesn’t get it clean enough, let’s make the Corps upgrade it as well. The more significant restoration will be making more natural banks, so when people visit the river, they just don’t see a big concrete V or U, but actual plants and wildlife.

      In LA, if you clean up a place and make it somewhere people want to go, it blossoms. Look at Venice Beach nowadays vs. 25 years ago. Look at downtown, at Hollywood. At the renovated Observatory. If a area is developed so it is actually nice to visit, like at the Arroyo Seco and Verdugo Wash confluences, then people will visit. If you build it, they will come…
      Also, on a more fundamental level, a non-concrete river bottom will help charge local aquifers (which will encourage the flowing of the natural springs that did feed the olden river north of downtown).

  6. That is primarily the west end of the valley; I don’t know if the plumes go all the way to Eluysian. But while those chemicals make the water unsafe for drinking without treatment, they wouldn’t impact people down and about the river (and for wildlife, would be massively diluted if they flow into the river itself).

  7. The river is still sewer water. In fact, that IS it’s “restored” state, which was recently demonstrated by the tanker fire and just how quickly the spilled fuel on the nearby freeway tunnel made it to the river. Restoration to me means what has already happened, which is to make it bike and pedestrian friendly with paved paths and pocket-parks that enable people to enjoy the urban outdoors along with frequently great views of the real outdoors in the hills and mountains directly north. Drinking the water(?), fishing(?), swimming(?), or even kayaking(?) are unrealistic goals for a structure designed to serve an entirely different and important purpose like preventing flooded streets and homes on the riverbank from being swept away during a good rain. Everything else is pure gravy.

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