Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kirk Gibbs announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will be taking new interim measures to improve flood protection on the Los Angeles River during El Niño. USACE received emergency federal funding to begin work next week on an area of the river that spans from Griffith Park to Elysian Valley.
"Our river is unique — most of the year it runs nearly dry, and then during the rainy season it runs in powerful torrents as we've seen this week," said Mayor Garcetti. "My top priority during El Niño is to ensure the safety of everyone in our city, and I thank the Army Corps of Engineers for taking action now to enhance the river's flood management functions."
The Los Angeles District of USACE determined this area needed increased capacity to keep the river in its banks. The L.A. District declared an emergency to USACE headquarters on January 6, prompting headquarters to provide $3.1 million in federal funding and nearly 3 miles of temporary barriers, known as HESCO Bastion. The temporary barriers effectively raise the sides of the river channel, temporarily increasing its capacity for the winter storm rains.
Additionally, the District received approximately $500,000 in operations and maintenance funding to begin vegetation removal from the highest-risk areas within the channel, in an area just upstream and downstream of Riverside Drive and the Zoo Bridge. The vegetation impedes water flow.
“The flood fighting has just begun for this winter,” said Gibbs. “The additional funding for the river should provide the interim flood risk reduction needed. Residents will start seeing an increase in activity in and around the channels starting the week of January 11th.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors sent a letter Tuesday to Congress and USACE requesting the additional funds.
"Not only will the work by the Army Corps of Engineers allow the Los Angeles River to better manage the larger volumes of storm flows expected from future El Niño rains this season, it will also provide residents from the cities of Los Angeles and Glendale the protection they deserve from flooding," said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis.
"The L.A. County Department of Public Works, along with L.A. City's Office of Emergency Management, have been preparing for months to ensure that Los Angeles is ready for El Niño," said L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. "That's why we strongly pressed the federal government to fund the work of the Corps of Engineers to quickly perform urgently needed maintenance of this stretch of the river. We are very pleased to see the Corps taking action and we trust the work will be completed quickly."
The emergency work will require action from the Los Angeles City Council in the form of a motion that will allow the USACE right-of-way entry to the river levees.
"The unpredictable rainy season in the Los Angeles area requires us to take special preventive measures for those who live in neighborhoods along the L.A. River,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the city’s Arts, Parks, and LA River Committee. “I want to thank the USACE, the County, and our own City departments for their work to improve public safety during this El Niño weather event.”
Construction teams will place the barriers along the edges of the river which may require closing some sections of the L.A. River bike and pedestrian path. The work is anticipated to take several weeks, with the installations expected to remain in place through the spring.
"Given the potential danger that the current El Niño storms pose to the City, it’s essential that we increase safeguard measures that protect our neighborhoods, especially those along flood zone areas," said Councilmember David Ryu.