LA River gets Clean Water Act protections

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Molly Peterson/KPCC

Youth conservation corps members test water near a soft-bottomed stretch of Compton Creek. Local officials announced the purchase of a 4-acre parcel of land here as part of a larger collaboration to revitalize the Los Angeles River.

Good news for the Los Angeles River has come twice today. Local officials announced new restoration plans for a stretch of Compton Creek that feeds into the river. Federal officials have designated the full length of the river a "traditional navigable waterway."

That designation puts the L.A. River under the protection of the federal Clean Water Act. Four years ago, a Supreme Court decision and how the federal government interpreted it had put some ecosystem and pollution protections afforded to waterways in doubt for the L.A. River.

In recent years, activists had even kayaked down the river – it's illegal to do that without a permit – to prove it is in fact a body of water worth protecting.

The regional office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to enforce environmental protections, restore ecosystems, and consider how the designation could impact tributaries and areas surrounding the river.

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also announced the purchase of about four acres of a soft bottom stretch of the waterway behind the Crystal Casino and Hotel. Locals may remember the creek as the Compton Canal, he said.

"It was a place where youth went to recreate, to explore, and even to fish. However, over the years, the impact of urbanization has had a profound toll on the creek, its native habitat and its ability to promote public safety."

The Los Angeles County Flood Control District has determined that the levee system protecting the lower reaches of Compton Creek no longer will contain a 100-year storm event.

Ridley-Thomas called for an ecosystem restoration study to address flood protection concerns and restoration of natural habitat and recreational opportunities in the creek.

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