Chicken Corner and a few residents of Echo Park and environs took a walking tour of Echo Park Lake yesterday, guided by various representatives of Black & Veatch and other subcontractors and city employees. The project reps gave their vision of the future of the lake, which is a recipient of Prop O funds for renewal. The EIR for the project is underway and the deadline for public comment is Oct. 9.
Most of what we saw I liked very much. Lots of new wetland areas, soft edges around the lake, well-chosen vegetation. The plan moves the waterpump station from the peninsula to the south end of the park. (It's hard to imagine how anyone got away with locating a utility building at the most beautiful lookout point in the park - but it happened. These things do happen when no one says no.) The lotus bed will be restored.
More good: 12 to 18 inches of slime are slated to be scraped off the bottom of the lake. An underwater berm will serve as a dam - because the lake is actually a dam. The lake bottom will be made of clay. And the drainage plans were impressive, designed to stop the use of city water for filling the lake -110,000 gallons of water are to go in the north end and out the south end every day -- and designed to keep sediment and garbage out. One things I learned: outflow begins at the south drain at Bellevue then proceeds beneath Glendale Blvd. to 2nd St., which it follows all the way to the LA River.
Not so wonderful: A rep for the landscape architects said they want to get rid of the floating-marsh islands that presently exist on the lake because, the rep said, they wouldn't add enjoyment to the lake. "What about the aquatic birds who have protected nests there?" I asked. Rep said they could nest along the edges of the lake instead. But unscrupulous people and children take the eggs.... No answer. He also said some of the trees, which should never have been planted 70 years ago, would have to be removed. But new ones, better ones, would be planted.
Black and Veatch's rep Hala (couldn't read her last name) said they are planning to drain the lake in one go - instead of in phases as many residents have requested for two years - because it would be less expensive to do so. When Judy Raskin, local birder of note, asked how much money would be saved, Hala said they didn't know. No one seems to have done calculations for that. They're just assuming it will be more expensive. Then she started to become impatient with questions. (The point of draining in phases is so migrating birds could still use the lake.) She said of course Fish and Game would have a say in the matter. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me at that moment to ask whether Fish and Game has to weigh in during the EIR. It seems strange that they wouldn't, but if they do they only have a few days to do so. And if they say the lake should be drained in phases then what good is an EIR that doesn't address that plan?
My friend Jane Bowers, who has a degree from the Kennedy School of Government and who is visiting from Boston, commented about how suspicious the Echo Park folk were of the information they were being given. (Well, that's Echo Park: it's full of smart, cranky skeptics.) She says she has more faith in the motives of people who are trying to get things like the lake rehabilitation done.
I had to agree that I want the project, and I didn't see any signs of villainy in front of me yesterday morning. I also like the overall plan, which seeks, happily, to respect the history of the lake and the neighborhood. But I care about the wildlife who presently LIVE at the park. And the way the animals and their advocates seem to be less than an afterthought for the giant private companies, well, that makes me cranky. Not a crank, but cranky. Certainly the birds add more overall enjoyment to a visit to the lake than a shapely view of the boathouse. And the cost of draining the lake in phases? Who knows what that would be?
If you have anything to say: Comments must be received in writing by October 9, 2009. Mail to: Maria Martin, City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering, 1149 South Broadway, Suite 600, Mail Stop 939, Los Angeles, CA 90015; or e-mail (include "Echo Park Comments" in subject) to Maria.Martin@lacity.org.