News Story Manager

Corps’ planning, policy chief visits Los Angeles to learn more about LA River disposition study

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District
Published July 28, 2022
Eric Bush, chief of the Planning and Policy Division for Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, center, asks questions during a July 6 briefing with Priyanka Wadhawan, Los Angeles System Restoration project manager with the Corps’ LA District, second from right, about the LA River during a stop in Los Feliz, several miles from downtown LA. Topics included ecosystem restoration, operations and maintenance, and divestiture. The accompanying group included leaders and subject-matter experts from the Corps’ LA District, USACE South Pacific Division, and Headquarters. Left of center is Col. Julie Balten, LA District commander; and at right is David Van Dorpe, district deputy for project management.

Eric Bush, chief of the Planning and Policy Division for Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, center, asks questions during a July 6 briefing with Priyanka Wadhawan, Los Angeles System Restoration project manager with the Corps’ LA District, second from right, about the LA River during a stop in Los Feliz, several miles from downtown LA. Topics included ecosystem restoration, operations and maintenance, and divestiture. The accompanying group included leaders and subject-matter experts from the Corps’ LA District, USACE South Pacific Division, and Headquarters. Left of center is Col. Julie Balten, LA District commander; and at right is David Van Dorpe, district deputy for project management.

Col. Julie Balten, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District commander, right, talks with Eric Bush, chief of the Corps’ Planning and Policy Division, during his July 6 tour of the LA River at Elysian Park, near downtown LA. Topics included ecosystem restoration, operations and maintenance, and divestiture. Balten and Bush were joined by leaders and subject-matter experts from the Corps’ LA District, the South Pacific Division and Headquarters.

Col. Julie Balten, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District commander, right, talks with Eric Bush, chief of the Corps’ Planning and Policy Division, during his July 6 tour of the LA River at Elysian Park, near downtown LA. Topics included ecosystem restoration, operations and maintenance, and divestiture. Balten and Bush were joined by leaders and subject-matter experts from the Corps’ LA District, the South Pacific Division and Headquarters.

Col. Julie Balten, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District commander, left, talks with Eric Bush, chief of the Corps’ Planning and Policy Division, during his July 6 tour of the LA River in Los Feliz, several miles from downtown LA. Topics included ecosystem restoration, operations and maintenance, and divestiture. Balten and Bush were joined by leaders and subject-matter experts from the Corps’ LA District, the South Pacific Division and Headquarters.

Col. Julie Balten, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District commander, left, talks with Eric Bush, chief of the Corps’ Planning and Policy Division, during his July 6 tour of the LA River in Los Feliz, several miles from downtown LA. Topics included ecosystem restoration, operations and maintenance, and divestiture. Balten and Bush were joined by leaders and subject-matter experts from the Corps’ LA District, the South Pacific Division and Headquarters.

LOS ANGELES – The chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Planning and Policy Division met with leaders and subject-matter experts with the Corps’ Los Angeles District and South Pacific Division in early July to gain a better understanding of the Los Angeles County Drainage Area Disposition Study.

Eric Bush, who was visiting various Corps regional planning offices across the nation, said he wanted to make a stop in LA to learn more about this study, which is designed to evaluate opportunities for divestiture, disposal and improvements to operations of the Los Angeles County Drainage Area.

“It’s a potentially transformative effort we’re engaged in here,” Bush said. “I wanted to learn more about it and maybe give more guidance to the study team doing that because I think it’s one of the most important studies we have underway.”

The Los Angeles County Drainage Area, or LACDA, system includes about 45 miles of flood levees and channels under the responsibility of the Corps to operate and maintain, and a larger federal project with the nonfederal partner, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, consisting of 517 miles of channels and levees, 26 debris basins and five flood-risk-management dams.

Representatives with the LA County Flood Control District requested the study, which is authorized under Section 216 of the Flood Control Act of 1970 to review the operation of completed Corps projects and to examine the federal interest, including whether these areas are meeting their authorized purposes.

“We had the opportunity to discuss the LACDA disposition study with the county of LA and some senior leaders about where we are in that schedule and where we still need to go,” Balten said. “It was very important to receive that input and listen to our partners in how we operate and maintain the entire LACDA system.”

“I hope we achieve a win-win here, which is that we can deauthorize components of this massive flood-risk reduction project and transfer those to LA County because they’ve got the engineering capability and the resources to operate it and maintain it,” Bush said. “What that does is it lowers our operations and maintenance cost in the region and in the nation.”

ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION

During his visit, Bush got a closeup look at the LA River and opened a dialogue with more than a dozen subject-matter experts with the district and division to discuss the project’s successes and challenges.

One major effort is the LA River Ecosystem Restoration Project, which was initiated with the intent to restore 11 miles of the LA River – from the area of Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles – while maintaining existing levels of flood-risk management. Planned restoration goals include the creation and re-establishment of riparian and freshwater marsh habitat to support increased populations of wildlife and enhance habitat connectivity within the study area, as well as to provide opportunities for regional connectivity to nearby ecological zones, such as the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains.

“It’s very exciting to be able to get to do this and partner with the City of LA as we bring habitat back to a very urbanized channel,” Balten said. “It’s such a great opportunity to be able to show that we can do that, while maintaining flood protection that the river is there to provide for the community.”

CIVIL WORKS IN CALIFORNIA

Bush, who is from Florida and worked in the Jacksonville District before assuming his current role at the Corps’ headquarters, said California is a prime area to do civil works.

“We’ve got all the problems here – and they’re magnified – water supply, ecosystem restoration, deep-draft navigation, inland flood, coastal storms,” Bush said. “If you like to do civil works, this is the place to do that. To me, it’s the challenges of fulfilling what Congress and taxpayers expect from the Corps of Engineers.”

“To bring him out to California and give him a perspective on the great, amazing things that our district is doing, while also looking at some of the challenges that we face here in Southern California when it comes to water and flood-risk-reduction projects and getting to know our sponsors – our partners – is critical,” Balten said. “I’m hoping he walked away with a better understanding, and we welcome him back any time because there’s so much more to show him.”