Just north of downtown — and a stone’s throw from the growling 5 Freeway — the concrete bed of the Los Angeles River gives way to soft earth and an explosion of riparian life: Cottonwood and sycamore trees push skyward, while fish dart beneath the swooping shadows of cackling waterfowl. The scents of mulefat scrub and sage hang in the air.
For many, it’s a vision of what the Los Angeles River looked like before it was transformed into a massive flood control channel. It also serves as a rallying point for those environmentalists who want to see the river returned to a more natural state.
But what few Angelenos realize is that for much of the year, this thriving river habitat is sustained by a constant flow of treated wastewater.
Although melting snowpack and torrential rains send water coursing along the river from time to time, most of the water originated from the sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs, toilets and washing machines of millions of homes and businesses before it was treated in sewage plants and released into the river.
Now, as climate change stokes recurring cycles of drought, cities are increasingly looking to recycle this treated wastewater even before it reaches the river’s graffiti-marred concrete. With Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledging to recycle 100% of the city’s wastewater by 2035, and the cities of Burbank and Glendale also looking to increase wastewater recycling, the 51-mile river has suddenly become a battleground between environmentalists and wastewater recycling advocates.
Yesterday two big steps occurred for bringing the endangered Southern California Steelhead back to the waters of Southern California:
First the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the San Gabriel and LLA River and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) established a cooperative agreement for the creation of the Los Angeles River Fish Passage Program. It seeds that program with $13 million of funding from Proposition 1 bond monies.
Second, from the same meeting, a Trout Unlimited proposal for a conceptual design of the lower river channel access adjacent to Dills Park, bordering Compton and Paramount through the Los Angeles River Fish Passage Program also received more than $300,000.
I’ll be writing a broader piece about what this means for conservation in the coming weeks, but I wanted to spread this good news right now.
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is soliciting feedback for their ongoing efforts around the Upper LA River & Tributaries plan. They have released a bilingual survey tool for community organizations and residents alike to fill out. This tool offers the ability to view layers such as: the literature review and compilation, identified opportunity sites and design areas, and is also an opportunity for you to provide feedback. Please visit the link below and complete the survey and share with your neighbors/constituents/community members.