Supervisor Hilda Solis and I wrote an opinion piece in Saturday’s La Opinión outlining how the LA River can help the County meet our local water needs for the future.

When the average Angeleno thinks about the LA River, they think about a concrete pathway in need of beautification. But even in our driest winters, billions of gallons of potentially usable water flow directly into the Pacific Ocean from our River – about 90 billion gallons each year. If you think it seems irresponsible for a region that imports most of its water supply to let our local supply go literally down a concrete drain, you’re right.

The current form of the LA River is doing what it was designed to do. The River was lined with concrete to divert water away from Los Angeles, providing our urban areas with flood protection. This plan worked for decades, but our reality has changed. Poorly maintained or out-of-date infrastructure puts people’s lives at risk.

As experts warn of the increasing likelihood of a devastating flood, we can no longer afford to depend on act of Congress to fund and attend to critical repairs on the 40 miles of flood-control channels along the LA River that are currently under the control of the US Army Corps. Earlier this week, we introduced a proposal to transfer ownership of 40 miles of channels to the County. Incorporating these 40 miles into our greater network of flood protection will help strengthen regional plans around water conservation, habitat restoration, and recreational opportunities, as well as debris removal and cleaning up trash and graffiti.

As our region has grown, so has our need for a cleaner, safer, and more accessible LA River. LA County is also updating the LA River Master Plan as part of our overall efforts to achieve water independence (more information available at larivermasterplan.org). What we have learned from community engagement meetings is that everyone has goals for the LA River, from equitable access, to mobility, to making sure our parks are safe and inclusive, to ensuring that communities are not displaced and are able to access and enjoy the River’s benefits. Updating the LA River Master Plan means more water for our communities, and less water passing us by on its way to the sea. And taking control of our river back from the federal government means we can increase our focus on water reclamation and conservation.

When we talk about the need to invest in our River, it’s not just about making it look better with parks and open space. Los Angeles County needs to become more water independent – a need that will only intensify as the rate of climate change increases – and we cannot achieve those goals without a community-driven reimagining – and local control – of the LA River.

La Opinión: Un río limpio, seguro, accesible