Depending on your historical perspective, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is either a savior or an environmental villain. South of Oregon, the Corps has an opportunity to rectify a situation on an important western waterway.

During the 1940s, the Corps lined the banks of the Los Angeles River with concrete. It was a flood control measure. The Los Angeles Times editorial page notes that, “From today’s vantage point, though, it’s easy to see that the intrusion of both concrete and control was excessive.”

Water activists in Southern California have long argued that there’s a better solution for the LA River.

On an 11-mile stretch, the Corps is looking at breaking up the river’s bottom, to restore riparian habitat and feed the aquifer that lies beneath. The L.A. River Rivitalization Corp. is disappointed that the Corps of Engineers’ plan does not include an opportunity to make the river more accessible to the public. Cities throughout the West, from Portland to Pendleton to San Antonio have learned the enormous benefits of reestablishing the relationship between civic life and a river.

All of this sounds like steps in the right direction. It is heartening to see the Corps of Engineers moving in a new direction.

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