With new backing from the federal government, city officials celebrated a step forward Thursday for a $1-billion plan to revitalize a strip of the Los Angeles River.
After originally pushing for a cheaper $453-million plan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that it now supports a more robust, $1-billion proposal that would widen the river and restore habitat along an 11-mile stretch north of downtown through Elysian Park.
Speaking in a grassy park beside the river, Army Corps Col. Kimberly Colloton said the decision not only recognized "the importance of the river to Angelenos, but it validates its place as a waterway of national significance."
The Army Corps' announcement came just days after Mayor Eric Garcetti went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the more ambitious plan. The event Thursday allowed the mayor to underscore his relationship with President Obama.
"I personally want to thank President Obama, for listening to me many times on this," Garcetti said.
Since he took office last year, Garcetti has traveled to Washington several times, and L.A. has received federal designations that also have been attributed in part to his relationship with the president. Earlier this year, a swath of L.A. neighborhoods were named a "Promise Zone" under Obama's poverty-reduction initiative, and on Wednesday, the Southern California region was chosen by the federal government to receive grants to attract manufacturers.
All four L.A. City Council members who spoke Thursday -- Mitch O'Farrell, Jose Huizar, Tom LaBonge and Gil Cedillo -- commended Garcetti for his work with the White House. O'Farrell credited Thursday's win to "the relationship that our mayor has built with our president."
Despite the celebration, it became clear Thursday that there are still many parts of the plan that need to be worked out.
The $1-billion proposal splits funding between the federal government, and local and state accounts. Garcetti said Thursday he was confident city officials would secure their half, but didn't specify where the $500 million would come from.
The plan also still must be approved by Congress. Colloton said her team will complete a feasibility report in the coming months to give to Army Corps headquarters, then refer it to the Civil Works Review Board by the end of the year. After that, it can head to Congress.
"It's not easy to find money in Washington these days," Garcetti said, "but when people saw the merits of this, even with limited funds, they said we need to be a part of changing history in this great city, in this great waterway."
Garcetti said he expects the project to take about a decade, and create 9,000 jobs during construction. He said the proposal would open the door to eventually revitalizing all 51 miles of the river, from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.