LOS ANGELES--Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District and Los Angeles County cut the ribbon opening the Tujunga Wash Ecosystem Restoration Project in Valley Glen, Calif., to the public Aug. 15.
The $7 million project was designed to restore degraded habitat along the sides of a 3/4-mile stretch of concrete channel carrying runoff from Hansen Dam to the Los Angeles River. Construction included a meandering stream with native riparian vegetation and pedestrian pathways along banks of the channel between Vanowen Street and Sherman Way in the San Fernando Valley. The project connects to the county's Greenway project to the south, creating a riparian habitat corridor nearly 2.5 miles long.
LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky hosted the event and told the 50 people in attendance, including project partners and local residents, that open recreation space enhances quality of life but, more importantly, it improves the environment.
"It's greening the environment. It's taking an asset that's been not only underutilized, but un-utilized, from an environmental point of view, and turning it into a real community asset that's fully utilized," said Yaroslavsky. "I know that the neighborhood's going to love this and appreciate this."
Yaroslavsky said one of the key features of the project is its water conservation component, where the meandering stream aids groundwater recharge.
"One way to reduce the reliance on imported water is by increasing the amount of rainwater that we capture and return to the groundwater table right here in the San Fernando Valley," he said. "We need to continue to develop these kinds of innovative and cost effective environmentally sensitive projects to increase our local water supplies."
LA County Department of Public Works operated and maintained the concrete-lined channel for the sole purpose of flood risk management. According to Director Gail Farber, the department welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the Corps to bring environmental, recreational and educational benefits to this dense urban area.
"We're extremely proud of our collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers and the common vision we share with the urban waterways, like the LA River and its tributaries; to transform them into sustainable ecosystems that provide not only flood protection for our communities, but also habitats for plants, wildlife, open space and recreation for our residents," said Farber. "So this project and the two habitat restoration projects downstream brings us even closer to our vision of sustainable communities."
Los Angeles District Commander Col. Mark Toy talked about the growing momentum in the movement to restore portions of the LA River watershed with programs like the Urban Waters Federal Partnership and America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Both programs share the goals of reconnecting people across the nation to their waterways and promoting water conservation. He said the Tujunga Wash restoration project, although relatively small, shows what is possible along the LA River and complements the river's revitalization plan.
"This particular project here at Tujunga Wash has garnered a lot of interest from higher levels in Washington, D.C.," said Toy. "They [Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works "Rock" Salt and Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick] had heard what's been going on in Los Angeles and what ecosystem restoration looked like and they wanted to see it for themselves.
All told, the Tujunga Wash Greenway created a total of 11.5 acres of native, drought-tolerant habitat, with 18 acres of open space and 3.2 miles of public pathways in a park-poor area of the San Fernando Valley.