On a recent trip to the nation's capital, Los Angeles Mayor
As assistant Army secretary for civil works, Darcy is critical to the city's efforts to win federal approval for a costly and ambitious plan to restore Los Angeles River habitat and provide recreational opportunities along an 11-mile stretch of the waterway north of downtown.
City officials have asked the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the river as a flood control channel, to approve a $1-billion renovation plan. But the corps staff has recommended a less ambitious, $453-million alternative, which is why Garcetti and his most powerful congressional ally — California Democratic Sen.
They want to persuade Darcy, the Army Corps brass and the
Garcetti discussed the project last fall with President
Boxer, head of the
Boxer said the corps staff recommendation is "exactly the opposite of what the administration has committed to do in places like Los Angeles." She said the administration has designated the Los Angeles River a priority in initiatives to promote conservation and recreation,
According to Boxer, the corps' Los Angeles district office initially recommended the costlier version but was overruled by corps' headquarters in Washington. A corps' spokesman denied any disagreement between offices. "We're one corps, one voice,'' spokesman Jay Field said.
But Field said the corps is considering Garcetti's recent offer to split the costs with the government if the agency approves the more expansive project.
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the corps' commanding general, is expected to submit a recommendation to
A White House spokesman declined to comment.
A spokesman for Darcy said the assistant Army secretary "understands the passion that the people living there have to restore the L.A. River, and is working diligently with local government to find the best path forward.''
But advocates for the costlier project have their work cut out for them. Those familiar with the corps say that it is rare for the chief to reject a staff recommendation.
Garcetti's offer to split the costs if the corps approves the more expansive project does have a precedent. The federal government is paying for half of the Florida
The city's 50-50 offer comes as the corps faces demands for flood protection and harbor dredging projects elsewhere, including a $60-billion-plus backlog of work awaiting funding.
"This is the challenge we always have in L.A.," said Rep.
With the corps facing a backlog of projects, "I think they are very circumspect about adding big new items to the list," Schiff added.
Garcetti said that he has sought to allay the "sticker shock" of the project by pointing out that the cost will be shared by the city and others and spread out over a decade or so.
"I don't think that kids who are growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods along the L.A. River should be punished for the price of real estate in Los Angeles simply because it's cheaper to do water projects in Wichita,'' Garcetti said. "It's an issue of environmental justice."'
But Steve Ellis, vice president of the watchdog group
'If they do this for L.A., why wouldn't they do it for everybody?' Ellis said.
Schiff suspects that the corps may have already made up its mind, suggesting that the project has been run up the chain of command, given its high profile.
As a result, proponents of the more ambitious project are beginning to look for other pots of federal money to help Los Angeles undertake the $1-billion restoration. They hope money will be available, for example, from the