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Los Angeles River Visionary Reflects on $1 Billion Recommendation for Revitalization

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its preference for a $1.08 billion plan to restore habitat in the Los Angeles River, many credited Lewis MacAdams's fight to change the city's relationship with its waterway over nearly three decades.
July 3, 2014, 2pm PDT | Molly M. Strauss | @mmstrauss
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Alissa Walker

Despite its history as the ecological feature around which original Angelenos formed their settlement, the Los Angeles River has long been a concrete-encased flood control channel. That is now changing. On May 28, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would recommend Alternative 20 as its preferred approach for revitalizing the Los Angeles River. The decision, which marked a significant change from the Corps’ original plan to support the half-as-ambitious Alternative 13, was cause for Lewis MacAdams to celebrate. His non-profit, Friends of the Los Angeles River, began calling for river revitalization starting in 1986.

In an exclusive conversation with The Planning Report, MacAdams gives an overview of Alternative 20 and provides insight into the long process that brought about the Army Corps’ announcement--focusing on changing relationships between local, state, and federal players. In light of California's state-wide drought, he notes the relationship between water recycling and flow in the river. MacAdams also identifies the recreational activities already taking place there, and the opportunities soon possible due to the recent decision.

In his words, "The thrilling part of it for me, personally, is that Alternative 20 begins to fulfill some of my own goals from when I started Friends of the Los Angeles River. We will start to see habitat restored. When people ask me, 'How will you know when your work is done?' I always say, 'When the steelhead trout run returns to the Los Angeles River.' This won’t directly make that happen, but it’s a big step toward it."

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Published on Monday, June 30, 2014 in The Planning Report
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