Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Thoughts on Slow Water in Southern California

Although ecologically- and socially- conscious watershed and runoff management are relevant everywhere, the methods through which one achieves these goals will vary greatly in areas of different climate and geography. Southern California, where I grew up, has turned its backs on its rivers to an extent I haven't encountered anywhere else. While the rivers in Pittsburgh struggle with pollution and access issues, many rivers in the Los Angeles area - even the mainstem channels - just don't exist as rivers anymore, but are instead routed into giant gutters like this one I posted last week.

The sprawling nature of cities in Southern California may offer many opportunities for small-scale stormwater management solutions such as rain gardens. However, this same sprawl has eaten away at almost all of the space that could be used to restore or daylight rivers without ensuing immense costs.

Interestingly, as in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles has a lot of railroad infrastructure along it's main river(s). These people have created a proposal to build a large constructed wetland, park, and restored river section on a railroad yard. I think it's a great idea in theory, though I am skeptical that it would be possible to do this and still find enough space to operate a railway to truck transfer facility. Although rail yards are not particularly pleasant, and it is unfortunate that these facilities tend to be near watercourses, we also need space for infrastructure, and trains tend to be much more efficient in moving freight than trucks or airplanes.

Then again, I don't want to naysay what could be a really neat project, so hopefully something is figured out. It's definitely something to keep an eye on if you have any interest in southern California or in urban river restoration.

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