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Archive for the ‘RIVER RESTORATION’ Category

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This winter, we wrote about the inaugural outing of the North Coast Design Competition (NCDC), Designing Dredge: Re-Envisioning the Toledo Waterfront, and now the winners have been announced. The entrants were asked to envision a useful waterfront space that combined existing and future outdoor developments with dredged materials, and also to provide the placement and design of a research site for the testing and experimentation of dredge material among other possible uses. Garrett Rock’s winning proposal, Re-Frame Toledo, would use Toledo’s dredge material to create sites for the public while also suggesting a phytoremediation step in the dredging cycle to process the sediment for future land use and better water quality. Sean Burkholder, an assistant professor of landscape and urban design at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the founder of NCDC, said that each of the 21 entries showed a thorough understanding of the subject. Some dealt with the excess sediment associated with dredging by creating riverside parks and recreation; others sought to create new ways of dealing with this material.

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BY JENNIFER ZELL, ASLA

The Glendale Narrows. Courtesy Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos.

The Glendale Narrows, Courtesy Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos.

The long campaign to restore the Los Angeles River met a major milestone on May 28 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would support a $1 billion plan to transform 11 miles of the river from a concrete drainage channel back to something like a natural, living waterway. The Corps’ backing of this plan, rather than of a more limited and less visionary one for about half the cost, was crucial to open the way to congressional funding for the project. The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has pushed hard for a plan that river activists have long sought to remake habitat, open space, and recreation areas around the river’s banks. You can read the Los Angeles Times report on the final decision and what may come next here. Below is LAM’s report by Jennifer Zell from the April issue about the history of the project, the intense efforts by river restoration proponents, and their building anticipation of a decision by the Corps, which, as it turns out, runs very much in their favor.

 

In the early 2000s, if you were to ask L.A. residents about the Los Angeles River, chances are they wouldn’t have known the city has a river, or they might recall the concrete-lined drainage canal that can be seen while driving over downtown bridges. If you ask the same question now, chances are good that residents are aware of the river’s presence; some may even view restoration of the river as a symbol of L.A.’s rebirth as a healthier, more connected city. Today, visitors to Los Angeles and Angelenos returning home through the LAX airport are greeted with a newly installed photo of Mayor Eric Garcetti kayaking the Los Angeles River with the caption, “Welcome to Los Angeles, where nature catches you by surprise.” This turnaround isn’t an accident. Popular and political support for restoring the river has been growing for a decade, and decisions will soon be made by Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will determine the future of the river, its ecosystem, and the neighboring communities.

The Los Angeles River runs 51 miles through a complex metropolis with its headwaters in the San Fernando Valley at the confluence of Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek, where two massive arcing concrete boxed channels meet precisely on tangent below the football stadium at Canoga Park High School. Along its course, the river flows past shopping centers, parking lots, residential tracts, and industrial corridors, and along the way it is joined by creeks and washes that all empty into the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach.

To the dismay of many people, an estimated 90 percent of the river is paved in concrete. In the 1930s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started on an ambitious plan, the Los Angeles County Drainage Area project, to contain the river in a concrete channel and move the water flowing through the L.A. Basin into the Pacific Ocean as swiftly and efficiently as possible. A recent history of catastrophic floods—in 1914, 1934, and 1938—and the water’s destructive power gave a sense of urgency and singularity of purpose to the plan. The project continues to provide flood protection and has enabled 336 square miles of land that was subject to flooding to be developed. But the zeal for a single elegant solution to flood control has in turn created a complex new set of hydrological and environmental problems for the 14 million people living within the Los Angeles River watershed.

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The Fluid and the Solid TRAILER from Alex + Ben on Vimeo.

If you haven’t used the term “Anthropocene” much, you can be forgiven. The term is of fairly recent origin, and it’s used to describe what some believe is a new geologic age: one in which human activity has changed the earth and its atmosphere. It’s a big idea, one that catches a lot of other ideas in its net—climate change being the most powerful. The idea of the Anthropocene lends more weight to what we already understand are the consequences of human activity. Our impact is not just local, national, or global, but temporal. We’ve literally changed the scale of geologic time.

The awesome consequences of human agency on the land are tough to convey without sounding ponderous, but for the filmmakers Alex Chohlas-Wood and Ben Mendelsohn, who are interested in things like infrastructure, technology, and the human/nature interface, much of the story can be told by the landscapes where these earth-changing processes take place. Which is how they came to make a documentary nominally about dredging, dredge landscapes, and sediment flow: The Fluid and the Solid.

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Photo by Chris Sass, Associate ASLA

Photo by Chris Sass, Associate ASLA

From the August 2013 issue of LAM:

By Adam Regn Arvidson, FASLA, editor of Now

Of the professionals who deal with stream restoration—civil engineers and landscape architects—the latter, according to Tim Keane, generally have little understanding of how streams actually function. To remedy that, Keane, a landscape architecture professor at Kansas State University, with Chris Sass, Associate ASLA, who teaches landscape architecture at the University of Kentucky, and dozens of students through the years have been literally getting their feet wet in Kansas streams. They’re not inventing new ways of looking at watercourses, but gaining an understanding of how accepted stream science actually works.

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Debris floats in New York’s East River. Brennan Cavanaugh/Flickr

FEMA isn’t the only federal agency helping places affected by Superstorm Sandy. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has provided $5.3 million in funds through its Emergency Watershed Protection program.

NRCS has distributed the money equally between its state offices in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia—each is getting $480,000. Local sponsors can apply for funding for projects to get rid of storm debris from waterways and to restore places that have been scoured or washed away by floods. Funds are available for both public and private property. NRCS will pay up to 75 percent of a project’s total cost, and the sponsor is responsible for the rest. Local offices may also use the money for purchasing floodplain easements.

If you are involved in restoration efforts, also be sure to check out NRCS’s online portal Atlantic Coastal Restoration. It has information on stabilizing sand dunes and revegetating shorelines and is linked into the USDA’s wonderful PLANTS Database.

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Courtesy MVVA and Thomas Phifer & Partners

When Austinites want to spend time by the water, Lady Bird Lake, stocked with fish and ringed by pedestrian trails, is a popular choice. Not so for Waller Creek, which wanders through downtown Austin before it empties into Lady Bird Lake—the waterway is partially channelized, eroded, and polluted. But there are plans for it that will give locals a chance to love Waller Creek as much as the lake it feeds.

An international design competition hosted by the Waller Creek Conservancy asked designers for their visions for the lower 1.5 miles of the riparian watershed, and they just announced the team of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., and Thomas Phifer & Partners as the winners. The team’s design is a chain of parks in five connected districts:  The Lattice (at left), The Grove, The Narrows, The Refuge, and The Confluence.

CultureMap Austin reports that the Waller Creek Conservancy hasn’t gotten a chance since the announcement to meet with the winning team and discuss finances and timing, so more information will be coming soon.

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Photograph: ZUMA Wire Service / Alamy/Alamy

The first step to kayaking the L.A. River, and perhaps the toughest, is finding it. Rory Carroll, a reporter for The Guardian, took on that challenge, eventually meeting up with the intrepid group LA River Expeditions to navigate the concrete channel. This is the group’s inaugural season on the river, and George Wolfe, the founder of LA River Expeditions, hopes that the kayak tours are the first step to changing the community’s perception of the river. “We have to start thinking in new ways, and using words differently. If you call it a sewer ditch you treat it like a sewer ditch. Call it a river and you treat it like a river,” Wolfe says.

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