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Climate and Environment

The LA River Is In Bad Shape. The County's Revitalization Plan Will Make It Worse, Environmental Groups Say

A concrete bank meets the water of the Los Angeles river. Trees are visible in the background.
The Los Angeles River flows through the Frogtown neighborhood in Los Angeles.
(Andrew Cullen for LAist)
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When you think of the Los Angeles River, you probably think of concrete and a trickle of water at best. In the 1930s, the river's natural environment took a back seat after it was paved over to become a flood control channel.

Fast forward to now and the L.A. River is in such bad shape it made a list of the top ten most endangered rivers in the U.S.

Our local waterway ranks ninth on the annual report by conservation nonprofit American Rivers, which calls out L.A. County's revitalization plan for the river, saying the approach "is not in the best interest of the public." The report states:

While major cities across the globe are freeing rivers from concrete channels and creating more equitable access to nature, LA County is pushing a new Master Plan that is overly reliant on concrete and other outdated approaches and denies communities natural climate solutions that could ameliorate extreme climate impacts.
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Bruce Reznik with environmental watchdog LA Waterkeeper echoed those concerns, saying despite the input of his and other groups, the county's current proposal doesn’t prioritize climate change or riverside residents.

“It seems to have bought in on, frankly, giving up on the river and doubling down on the mistakes of the past," he said.

There’s still too much concrete in the plan, Reznik said, including covering up parts of the river to increase recreation spaces. He said that would make areas around the river more prone to flooding — something we’re going to see a lot more of with climate change.

"You don't get to a Los Angeles that is climate resilient, you don't get to a Los Angeles and that is equitable for all of our communities without trying to improve the L.A. River," he said.

L.A. County Public Works has not responded to our request for comment.

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