Boaters Make Successful Descent of L.A. River in 52-mile Los Angeles River Expedition

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A eclectic group of Angelenos successfully navigated kayaks and canoes down the full length of the 52-mile L.A. River (from headwaters to estuary) as part of the first-ever Los Angeles River Expedition 2008. The three-day exploratory expedition demonstrated that the whole river merits a determination as a "traditional navigable water" -- which would entitle the river to the highest standards of federal clean water protections under the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers, however, still maintains that only 4 miles of the entire river can be considered traditionally navigable waters, and that boats are not allowed in the LA River, despite California public trust laws that do not support that notion. LA County considers the river a "flood control channel."

Unfortunately, the river's potential is limited by Corps and County claims that the public doesn't have a right to its own river -- which runs contrary to California state law (Article 10, Section 4 of its constitution). It's practically criminal to charge onerous fees to the public for something the public already has a fundamental right to access. Somebody should look into that

A dozen intrepid Angelenos successfully navigated kayaks and canoes down the full length of the 52-mile L.A. River (from headwaters at Canoga Park to estuary in Long Beach) in a three-day exploratory expedition, demonstrating that the whole river merits a determination as a "traditional navigable water" -- which would entitle the river to the highest standards of federal clean water protections under the Clean Water Act.

On June 4, 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers ruled that only two stretches of the river (about 4 miles) merited distinction as a traditional navigable water (TNW), lowering the bar for protection of tributaries feeding into the river, opening the floodgates for development on the region's fragile ecosystems, threatening local water supplies, undermining the momentum of city and county river revitalization master plans, circumventing public involvement in its decision-making, and setting a precedent that could be followed on other abused and endangered waterways throughout the country.

Expedition member Frederick Reimers, former editor of Canoe & Kayak magazine, noted, "I've been on paddling expeditions throughout Canada, to India, Tahiti, Peru, Ecuador and elsewhere, but our journey down the LA River was probably the most exotic and mind blowing of them all. I tried three different craft in the LA River: whitewater kayak, sit-on-top kayak, and canoe, and the simple canoe trumped them all!"

"Much to our delight," says co-leader George Wolfe, "we found that even at this driest time of year you can float a boat down the whole river. We also saw that the river has all the requisite physical characteristics of a traditional navigable waterway (suitable hydrology -- depth, configuration and flow; ample access points and paths; evidence of public use, etc.), and that the river has enormous potential for commercial activities (birdwatching, fishing, painting, etc.). This is especially true of the 7-mile stretch of Class-I rapids in the soft-bottomed Glendale Narrows. Many people in riverside neighborhoods like Atwater Village expressed interest in boating tours via small watercraft."

"Unfortunately, the river's potential is limited by Corps and County claims that the public doesn't have a right to its own river -- which runs contrary to California state law (Article 10, Section 4 of its constitution). It's practically criminal to charge onerous fees to the public for something the public already has a fundamental right to access. Somebody should look into that," Wolfe continued. "The Corps did waive film permit fees at the last minute, but still says that boats mustn't touch water. Next year we hope we can include the Corps and County as willing partners. Colonel Magness, in the river, with a canoe -- now that would be a fantastic day for the entire LA River community!"

Joe Linton, author of Down by the LA River, observed, "It was a real kick! Sure, there were a few short portages around shopping carts and some rock ledges, but there were also waterlines on the channel walls indicating that water is 6-12 inches higher during other times of the year. Obviously, you wouldn't want to mess with this river when it's raining or when there are thunderstorms in the foothills. But by and large it was a pleasurable, surreal urban odyssey, full of human nature and other wildlife. Our permits were originally denied due to 'safety concerns,' but the biggest danger we encountered was slipping on algae exacerbated by all that hot concrete."

Adds Melanie Winter, executive director of non-profit The River Project, "When we transitioned from concrete-lined sections to natural ones (at the beginning of the Sepulveda Basin, the Glendale Narrows, and the estuary at Willow Street in Long Beach), there were brief stretches where plants and soil were working overtime to uptake the pollutants, and everything would smell unbelievably rank. But after 20 yards, it would start to balance out -- nature would prevail and you could start to imagine yourself anywhere but here in L.A. It's really a pretty extraordinary, fun experience."

For inquiries regarding this release: Julie Du Brow, Publicist: 310-821-2463/310-922-1301; julie @ dubroworks.com

For media fact-checking with USACE: Jay Field, Army Corps of Engineers, Public Affairs Officer; 213-452-3920; Thomas.j.field @ usace.army.mil

For media fact-checking with LA County: Luis Cervantes; 626-458-4937; LCervant @ dpw.lacounty.gov

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