An Eye on the River

New 13th District Councilman Mitch O'Farrell has taken the L.A. River issues baton from termed-out Ed Reyes.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — During his 12 years on the City Council, Ed Reyes became almost synonymous with the Los Angeles River. He chaired the council’s Ad Hoc River Committee and led the political effort to look at the waterway as an opportunity rather than a trash- and shopping cart-strewn laughingstock (the organization Friends of the Los Angeles River drove the community effort).

Now that Reyes has been termed out of office, many might wonder what will happen to political leadership on the river. According to newly elected 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the waterway is not about to be forgotten. He said he has taken the baton from Reyes.

Speaking Monday at a luncheon at the Downtown Palm hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, O’Farrell said the river won’t be given short shrift. O’Farrell, who was sworn in July 1 to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s old post, is already focusing on the waterway and said a priority will be looking at reversing some of the concrete channelization that occurred as a flood control effort in the 1930s.

“We have some alternatives that are being entertained right now by the Army Corps [of Engineers] and the Feds,” he said.

He pointed at what is known as “Alternative 20,” which is the most extensive revitalization plan, though also extremely expensive.

“We all support that, but it has a $1 billion price tag,” he said. “There are some [alternatives] that are a lot less than that.”

There are also procedural changes. Council President Herb Wesson, who handles council member assignments, recently killed off all ad hoc committees. The river work has instead been folded into a panel O’Farrell chairs, the bulkily titled Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee.

Reyes’ Ad Hoc River Committee met once a month. O’Farrell said that his committee meets twice a month, but that part of one of those sessions will be specifically about L.A. River issues.

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Copyright 2013 Los Angeles Downtown News.