Friday, February 28, 2014

It's Biblical Out There*

Photo posted on Twitter by Kenny Holmes @KHOLMESlive

The Los Angeles River, that concrete drainage ditch that runs for 48 miles through the San Fernando Valley south to Long Beach, channels runoff across the region into the ocean, and that is a shame.  The result is higher bacteria levels in ocean water around the drains, and a loss of millions of gallons of potential drinking water.  In fact, the river used to provide drinking water going back to early Indian tribes who inhabited the region.  Now it is just a concrete drainage ditch that dangerously floods during rainstorms and contains enough old couches, shopping carts, factory pollution, human and animal waste to choke a city.

Long ago as the region began to be settled, especially out in the San Fernando Valley, a meandering stream that grew to swift moving torrential river with a few drops of rain could no longer be tolerated.  When the alluvial plain flooded, homes were destroyed and people drowned.  So the Army Corps of Engineers built an elaborate concrete drainage system in the early 20th century which allowed storm runoff to be channeled harmlessly into the ocean.  The new-at-the-time California Aqueduct provided drinking water for Los Angeles.

Today, many environmental groups are clamoring for the river to be returned to its natural state.  A few times a year, kayakers attempt to navigate the waters in an effort to prove that the waterway is vital and necessary.  A sewage treatment plant in the Sepulveda Basin cleans the water and some areas use the runoff for watering lawns and landscape.  Several years ago during some heavy winter rains, the flood control basin along Burbank Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley backed up from the Sepulveda Dam, causing extensive damage in the area.  Also within the last few years, the bird sanctuary located in the same region was severely damaged by clear cutting attributed to the Corps.  At the time, speaking for the Army Corps of Engineers, Alexander Deraney said they had done a poor job of communicating with environmentalists and nature enthusiasts in the area.

So today, we are inundated with rain, and unfortunately, our drought conditions will not be alleviated by the downpour.  It is a shame we cannot collect this water and use it to offset our deficit.  Until we can figure out a way to conserve this water, the L.A. River will remain a flowing conglomerate of trash and sewage, of chemical and factory pollution, as well as a danger to residence who ignore warnings during storms and flock to the channels to watch the rapids race through the city.  These people often get swept into the turbulent current and then need rescuing by the LAFD Swift Water Rescue Team, putting lives at further risk.  One such rescue has already occurred today:  two men and two dogs were pulled from the flooded storm drain in Cypress Park.

And we won’t even get into the issues with L.A. drivers and the rain.

*Update:  According to Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (@LACoWater) on Twitter, 12,500 acre-feet of storm water was captured at L.A. dams. At least we caught some of the deluge.

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