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RIVER PLANS NOT FULLY GREEN YET.

Byline: Michael Coit Staff Writer

Transforming the Los Angeles River from an eyesore to an attraction brings together an unusual alliance of flood control officials and environmental groups.

How far greening projects will go, however, is still in doubt.

Bike paths, walking trails and small parks along the right of way are being designed and developed. More controversial is the push by river advocates to remove portions of the concrete walls encasing much of the river in a box channel.

``Do you want to take a hike along a concrete ditch or along something that at least restores some of the river's environmental values and some of its history and place,'' asked Ann Riley, a former state hydrologist and founder of the Waterways Restoration Institute in Berkeley.

Riley contends that engineering advances can balance flood protection with habitat and aesthetics. For instance, concrete portions of the Los Angeles River might be removed and the channel widened to bring trails and vegetation down closer to the water without affecting flows.

River advocates proposed some removal of concrete in the recent effort to design a mile-long bike and walking path along the river through Studio City.

But the project, a pilot for linking the Sepulveda Basin and Universal City with bike and walking paths, will not touch the river's walls. The path, featuring seating areas, lighting and landscaping, will remain high above the waterway after residents rejected the removal idea.

``It's a series of `what ifs' and we weren't prepared to take that risk,'' said Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Association. ``While beautification always is a great thing, flood control has to remain the top priority.''

A project along the margins of Tujunga Wash in the San Fernando Valley might provide answers about the concept's feasibility.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has a $3 million local grant to study removing a small portion of walls forming the 15-foot-deep channel that feeds the river. Los Angeles County Public Works officials manage the wash and are involved.

``Don't just lock yourself into one design because attitudes change,'' Riley said.

``There's been a huge change already. If we would have sat down and talked about those design alternatives five years ago, we would have been laughed out of town,'' she said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 30, 2000
Words:379
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