By Jay Field
Los Angeles District
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District and Los Angeles County officials broke ground Feb. 22 on a project designed to restore degraded habitat in the San Fernando Valley.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Public Works Deputy Director Mark Pestrella and District Commander Col. Mark Toy ceremonially turned dirt for the start of the $7 million Tujunga Wash Ecosystem Restoration project that will extend greening along the sides of a 3/4-mile stretch of concrete channel that carries runoff from Hansen Dam to the Los Angeles River.
Corps contractors will construct a meandering manmade stream, complete with native riparian vegetation and pedestrian pathways, on the west bank of the channel between Vanowen St. and Sherman Way. The east bank will be planted with native, drought-tolerant perennials and shrubs. The restoration project will connect to the county's Tujunga Wash Greenway project just to the south, creating a riparian habitat corridor nearly 2.5 miles long.
"Every segment of this wash that we've restored has had their neighborhood just thrilled with the beautification," said Yaroslavsky. "It's just an improvement of the quality of life."
Community residents Stan and Lynne Friedman, among the nearly a dozen community members in attendance at the ceremony, couldn't have agreed more with Yaroslavsky. They've lived along the barren channel for nearly 40 years.
"We're pretty excited about the project," Stan said. "We think it's a great idea."
"It'll be nice to look out at and take a walk in," added Lynne.
Toy told the residents and county partners in the audience that the project will effectively combine flood risk management with ecosystem restoration and recreation.
"We owe this to you, to create a community that you can walk down and enjoy the great outdoors," said Toy. "We have so much momentum right now with the LA River Watershed, not only with America's Great Outdoors Initiative, but the Urban Waters Federal Partnership Program."
Both programs share goals that include reconnecting people to their waterways and promoting water conservation.
According to Pestrella, the project brings multiple benefits that will serve as a model for a sustainable and healthy stream system in a dense, urban area of the valley.
"That water will eventually someday become part of the drinking water here in LA," said Pestrella. "It'll also help us with pollution issues. As pollution reaches the channel and we bring the water up onto the top of the channel, it's recharged eliminating a number of pollutants before it reaches our groundwater again."
Tujunga Wash was channelized in the 1950's curbing flooding in the developing area, but also halting the wash's natural function. Some of that function will be restored, providing opportunities for migratory bird nesting, wildlife movement, recreation and education, none of which will reduce the capacity of the flood control system.
The Corps is funding 75 percent of the project costs under its Continuing Authorities Program, Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act, that allows improvement of the quality of the environment in the public interest. Los Angeles County Flood Control District, which operates and maintains the wash, will fund the remaining 25 percent of the total project costs. Construction is scheduled to be completed this summer.