A (Concrete) River Runs Through It
July 27th, 2010
Los Angeles takes a lot of flak for any number of things that we don’t much need to delve into here. More than most any other city I can think of, L.A. is maligned by people who have never even set foot in any of its innumerable boroughs. Los Angeles is that ubiquitous. With so many haters, the onus is on just about anyone to play defense. Randy, the Red Hots, and even The Atlantic have done some legwork. It’s Goodosphere’s turn. We like a challenge, so we’ll go for defending the mighty sinuous Los Angeles River.
People talk smack about L.A.’s river. They go, “It’s concrete like that song!” “It’s barren like warm apple pie.” “It’s unsightly like Gibraltar.” Maybe it is those things, sometimes. But when the whipping boy isn’t being flogged, it’s busy saving its city’s ass from infrequent, though fully possible floods.
The river is also a critical part of Los Angeles’ history. Before the concrete was poured and the tags were tagged, the banks were natural and the river united an ever-expanding metropolis. The concrete may have enabled people to think of the artery as a canvas, dumpster, or chicken court, but some folks still put up the good fight to remind us.
Recently, said pugilists scored a big win. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, back in 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers was “preparing to adopt new regulations that would have stripped much of the L.A. River watershed of Clean Water Act protections.” When resident engineer Heather Wylie heard of the Corps’ plans, she leaked some incriminating docs and took to the World Wide Web to conduct some research. She found out that if navigable, a body of water qualifies for special protections. When there’s a Wylie, there’s a way.
She contacted one George Wolfe, the eventual founder of L.A. River Expeditions. Together, they began planning a three-day kayaking trip through the Los Angeles River. I know what you’re thinking. Did they bring enough water to fill the river, first?
It turns out, the river flows, “Only on a couple of stretches was it necessary to carry their kayaks. On some stretches, they zipped through the narrow, two-foot-deep low-flow channel, which felt a bit like a ride at Disneyland.”
It really felt like Disneyland once the EPA caught wind of the flotilla. Two weeks ago, the federal appendage ruled the Los Angeles river “traditional navigable waters.” Ergo, the river is now entitled to a series of protections under the Clean Water Act.
To celebrate, California’s governor took to the river with a cunning teen for an elaborate game of cat and mouse (click for motion):
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