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Will flooding put a damper on plans for the LA River?

by Audrey Ngo | AirTalk®

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The iconic 6th Street Bridge that connects downtown Los Angeles with its eastern disticts is reflected in the Los Angeles River after its closure to traffic on January 27, 2016. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Potential flooding may be causing trouble for neighborhoods close to the Los Angeles River.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a report that found parcels north of downtown L.A., including Atwater Village, Elysian Valley, Burbank and Glendale, could be flooded if a 100-year storm hits.

This news comes in the wake of a $1.6 billion L.A. River restoration project, which is working to naturalize an 11-mile stretch of river from Northern Griffith Park to downtown L.A. The plan would add water cleanup features and restore plant life, in part by extracting concrete walls that were originally put in place to prevent flooding.

The report prompted federal officials to require property owners with federally backed mortgages to buy flood insurance. The report also pointed to areas that could be under threat which are currently outside FIMA’s recognized floodplain.

“The cities can be going through a process with FEMA to re-map the floodplain, and the end result of that could require some [more] folks to need flood insurance,” Deputy Chief Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District David Van Dorpe told AirTalk’s Larry Mantle Friday.

They were joined by Marissa Christiansen, senior policy director for Friends of the Los Angeles River, to discuss what effect this report will have on the restoration project. 

Click on the blue playhead above to hear the full discussion, or read highlights below.

Interview Highlights

On the probability of this type of flooding

Christiansen: What we're talking about is a 1 percent chance of these levels of storms happening in any given year.

On how to mitigate flood damage and still continue the restoration project

Christiansen: There are a number of different flood risk mitigations that are far outside just channelizing the river. You can look at widening the channel...tunneling and diverting storm flows, having retention basins that are activated during storm events [...] continuing to design for the most innovative approach is what I think people should be focused on.

On whether the restoration project will affect communities downriver, where there has been devastating flooding in the past

Von Dorpe: No... when we look at a river and analyze its hydrology, we're looking at it as a whole system. Actually, the L.A. River and all its tributaries is part of what we call the L.A. County drainage area system... we're going to make sure that anything we do up here, whether it's ecosystem restoration or perhaps water conservation or flood risk management reduction, that it won't have consequences downstream.

On what the public can do to support the restoration project

Christiansen: Number one, the city is getting ready to move the G2 parcel, which is part of Taylor Yard... into escrow. When that comes up on the City Council agenda, we definitely urge the community to support that, because that really is a crown jewel of the river's restoration... The second thing that public can do - on November 8th there are a number of initiatives that will actually offer money to river or river adjacent projects. That is Measure A, which is the parks measure, and Measure M, which is a transportation measure, which would fund the bike path along the river... we support both.

Interviews have been edited for clarity.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District, will hold a public workshop on November 7th to discuss different aspects of the flood risks. Click here for more information.


Marissa Christiansen, senior policy director for Friends of the Los Angeles River

David Van Dorpe, deputy chief engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District


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