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LOS ANGELES – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and United Sates Interior Secretary Ken Salazar toured the Los Angeles River on Thursday and discussed the partnerships between the City of Los Angeles and the Obama administration to continue to protect, restore, and revitalize the Los Angeles River Watershed. The Urban Waters Federal Partnership will support local projects focusing upon increasing economic development, recreational and educational opportunities, and water conservation.
The Los Angeles River was identified as a priority for the Obama administration under the President’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative in 2010 and was recently selected as one of seven pilot cities from across the nation for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The Partnership works with local governments to help underserved communities reconnect to their waterways and the green space surrounding them.
“We are grateful that the Obama administration has made the LA River a priority through America’s Great Outdoors and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “By working together, we can create an emerald necklace of parks, walkways, and bike paths that will protect the river’s environmental integrity and promote access and economic growth for all Angelenos.”
The Los Angeles River Watershed was chosen for the federal partnership because of its unique capacity to facilitate economic, environmental and social benefits by reconnecting large urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with an iconic natural resource.
The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP) provides a 25-50 year blueprint on how to transform the City’s 32-mile stretch of river through more than 240 potential projects. Since the adoption of the plan, the City of Los Angeles has connected people to the Los Angeles River through projects like the Elysian Valley Pedestrian and Bike Path as well as the Rio de Los Angeles State Park.
Not only does a healthier river promote healthy communities, it also helps spur Los Angeles’ local economy. The revitalization of the river is expected to generate regional economic growth in the near term through project planning, architecture, and construction as well as long term job-creation through facilities maintenance. A revived river also increases tourism and property values.
“Today we are celebrating the partnerships that are transforming the Los Angeles River watershed into a national symbol of how once-neglected urban waterways can be cleaned up and restored to improve the quality of life and boost the economy in America’s communities,” said Secretary Salazar. “Once known for pollution and poverty, these watersheds can become model urban parks cherished for their trails and access to river recreation.”
An Urban Waters Ambassador will work alongside local partners and accelerate on-the-ground projects focusing upon increasing economic development, recreational and educational opportunities, and water conservation.
The Partnership hopes to help economy-boosting initiatives like the CleanTech Corridor and the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation.
Los Angeles will also work with the Partnership to make the River accessible to all. A new 7.2mile Cornfield-Arroyo Neighborhood Trail Network will connect urban communities to the LA River, Arroyo Seco, and LA State Historic Park. Three miles of urban creek trails will bring the Watts community green streets, greenways, and connections to the regional trail system.
The Partnership will push for green infrastructure to retain rainwater and local water conservation programs, like the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART, which uses cost-share funding to develop projects that use water more efficiently. Additional support will go to the LA River Keepers/Corps, which is instrumental in water quality testing, river cleanup, and developing on-the-job skills.
North Atwater Park, the site of today’s event, is adjacent to the Glendale Narrows portion of the LA River and is currently being restored through the Master Plan with native vegetation and improved stormwater filtration. The park is set to reopen this spring.
Other in-process or completed River Revitalization Master Plan Projects include:
• Bull Creek Restoration project, completed Spring 2009 • Riverdale Green Street project, opened September 2010 • Elysian Valley Bikeway, opened December 2010 • Confluence Plaza project, opened in March 2011 • Albion Dairy Park, broke ground September 2011 • LA River West Valley Bikeway, currently under construction • Sunnynook River Park, will break ground in 2012 • LA River Greenway Phase II, will break ground in 2012 • LA River Headwaters project, received more than $1 million from the State of California in 2011 • LA River and Aliso Creek Confluence project, received more than $1 million from the State of California in 2011 • LA River Revitalization Corporation secured approximately $4 million from a private donor to build a pedestrian/bicycle/equestrian bridge in 2011 • LA City identified an additional $1 million to contribute toward completion of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ LA River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study, positioning it to be completed in the next two years
Urban Waters Federal Partnership Members:
• US Environmental Protection Agency • US Department of Interior • US Department of Agriculture • US Corporation for National and Community Service • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention • US Department of Commerce/Economic Development Administration • US Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration • US Army Corps of Engineers • US Department of Transportation • US Housing and Urban Development • US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Footage of the Los Angeles River: