River advocates welcome Army Corps first female commander
In an unprecedented first, river advocates threw a party to welcome the first U.S. Army Corps female district commander to Los Angeles. Spanish guitars played as guests from a multi-pronged coalition of community groups, private enterprise and government officials sipped sangria to welcome Col. Kim Colloton at the Los Angeles River Center plaza.
The river center is a stronghold of advocacy groups, which include Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco Foundation. The audience and speakers included two Los Angeles city councilmembers, the mayor of Burbank, and representatives of local cities, the state and the federal government.
“This has never been done before,” said Lewis MacAdams, founder of FOLAR, and, until recently, a longtime self-proclaimed “enemy” of the Corps. But MacAdams, along with others, increasingly see the Corps as part of the solution, not the problem.
“It’s going to get more challenging as the interest gets wider, as more and more people view the river as an asset toward open space, and renewal, and improvement of the city,” Alejandro Ortiz, FOLAR chairman said. “You would wonder if the Corps of Engineers is the ideal partner. At first thought, you might think it’s not, but as it turns out the Army Corps of Engineers is the guiding light toward salvation. And salvation has a name. It’s Option 20.”
At stake is how much money the federal government is willing to put into implementing an ecosystem restoration that could possibly remake the Los Angeles River into a vital part of the city. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council made it officially known that it wanted to see the biggest package possible, that’s $1 billion (Alternative 20), which would be spent on the river from Glendale Narrows to downtown, an 11-mile area. There are three other “best buy” alternatives that will be spelled soon-to-be-released report, each with a lesser price tag.
“Just from my short month here in my new job, and by this synergy that I have felt and seen tonight, I can feel that we are united in a vision to protect, restore and maximize this river’s benefits for future generations,” Col. Colloton said to the crowd of around 200.
The crowd found out that the long-awaited ARBOR study, which names four possible paths to ecosystem restoration, will be available for public comment on Sept. 13. There will be an email box to make it easy for people to voice their opinions on the Corps’ website. How much money is spent must be voted on and approved by Congress.
See you on the river, Jim Burns