“Is the L.A. River up a creek?” – June 1
If the waterway is not officially deemed to be ‘navigable,’ many of its tributaries could lose important protections.
By Deborah Schoch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Over the years, the Los Angeles River has been redrawn, clad in concrete, tainted with chemicals, invaded by countless Hollywood car chases, dismissed as a glorified storm drain.
Now comes the latest slap. The city’s river can’t even float enough boats to qualify as a full-fledged navigable waterway, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
River advocates are outraged.
“They’re just wrong. That’s the simple version of it. We’ve done kayak trips from the Valley to Long Beach a dozen times in the past 10 years,” said poet and writer Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River.
It doesn’t end there. What might seem a minor bureaucratic tweak by the Corps could have a domino effect across the river’s 834-square-mile watershed, say worried environmentalists and some federal, state and local officials.
Critics say the draft decision issued by Corps regulators weakens federal water protections for many seasonal streams that feed the river. They say this could translate into more mountain development and more dirty runoff flowing through cities to the Pacific.
“Practically speaking, the March 20 decision would open up a number of tributaries and streams to the argument that the Clean Water Act doesn’t apply,” said David Beckman, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But how is the Clean Water Act — among the strongest federal laws guarding rivers, lakes and streams — linked to the ability to float a boat down the Los Angeles River?