David Dean Bottrell on Off-Ramp for November 5, 2011

What's at the bottom of Echo Park Lake?

Echo Park Lake drained

Kevin Ferguson

Echo Park Lake, nearly empty as crews work to clean and restore the lake. Several shopping carts were found at the lake's bottom, among other debris.

Echo Park Lake toy

Kevin Ferguson

There were plenty of lost toys at the bottom of Echo Park Lake, too. Here, Lumière, the candle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast languishes on the lakebed.

Echo Park Lake drained from boat house

Kevin Ferguson

View from the boat house, which is also set to be rehabilitated.

Echo Park Lake boombox

Kevin Ferguson

A boombox was found at the bottom of the lake, too.

Echo Park Lake LA Times Ad

Kevin Ferguson

An advertisement for the Los Angeles Times found at the bottom of a drained Echo Park Lake

Now that it's almost been drained completely, we can find out. And why did we empty it in the first place? Off-Ramp Producer Kevin Ferguson got to the bottom of things, literally: he met local councilman Eric Garcetti at the newly dried-out lake to find out.

Garcetti said the goal of the $65 million project is to clean the polluted lake, calling it "a complete change in the way this city approaches its water." He said water in L.A. is littered with trash, which ultimately washes out in bodies of water like the lake. As a result, bacteria grows in the water rendering it unsafe for people to use.

Part of the project includes creating a wetland around the island in the north end of the lake, which will feed nutrients into the water. The wetland will reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which contribute to the growth of algae and the depletion of oxygen in the water.

But most importantly: what did they find at the bottom of the lake? Hubcabs, traffic cones, shopping carts, pay telephones, toys, trashcans, even a few firearms, long since out of commission.

In addition to the lake clean up, the city is spending $1.5 million on the restoration of the Echo Park Boathouse. The landmark, built in 1932, will undergo a complete structural retrofit and historical preservation rehabilitation. Garcetti hopes the restoration will bring boating back to the lake.

The project will take two years, but the councilman said it couldn't wait any longer. "We've polluted this lake, it's lost its character," Garcetti said, "It's time to bring it back to something that's healthy for the next hundred years."

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