Big News: EPA Designates L.A. River as Navigable!
July 7, 2010 § 24 Comments
Today, standing along the soft-bottom Compton Creek, the federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson proclaimed that the EPA is designating “the entire L.A. River as traditional navigable waters.” In the video above, the announcement comes at about 1:55 and the crowd cheers! Jackson continues stating that this means “the entire 51-mile watershed is protected” and “that areas like Compton Creek will have the full protection of our nation’s clean water law.”
More below on other great news from the press conference, and more of Jackson’s remarks.
Creek Freak readers already know this from reading our five-part series on Nexus and Navigability. So do folks who spend time on the L.A. River. Or kayak it. Or anyone who has watched Rock the Boat. The L.A. River was, is, and will continue to be a navigable waterway.
This afternoon, the federal government confirmed that this is indeed the case. This is very important, because navigability is one of the conditions that assures that a river and its tributaries will be protected by the 1972 Clean Water Act. That law can be summarized as stating that all our nation’s waters will be swimable and fishable – which is to say, safe for humans and for wildlife. (More background on all this here.)
The welcome announcement took place today at a press conference headlined by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson. Jackson was flanked by an impressive cast, including city of Compton mayor Eric Perrodin, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, city of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Mark Toy, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s Joe Edmiston, and Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold.
The big Los Angeles River announcement overshadowed other good news of the county’s acquisition of 4 acres of soft-bottom Compton Creek for a future creekside park – and L.A. Creek Freak will report more details on that great news soon. We’ll close with more video of Jackson’s comments, and a link to EPA’s online press announcement.
whoa , that is great news! It was so disappointing when all that Rapanos crud came out and they tried to de-navigable it.
This is great news and exciting coverage! Thanks Joe.
fantastic news for the City! – congratulations to all involved!
Wow. Great news! Congratulations.
I thought it was up to the Army Corps of Engineers to declare whether the river is navigable or not. I don’t know if the river is actually protected yet until the Army Corps makes this declaration. They are the ones that always issue permits to fill in “waters of the USA”, so I’m a little concerned that this isn’t the end of this battle.
Rex – The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for the initial designation (which they did and determined that only 4 miles of the L.A. River were, in their determination navigable.) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can override the USACE. Once the EPA overrides the USACE, then the USACE issues permits, based on the EPA’s determination. The USACE and EPA stood together today and said the river is navigable, so it doesn’t look like there will be any more “battle” specific to that.
There may still be some issues to work out relative to tributaries. Protected waters must have a “significant nexus” to a protected waterbody… EPA guidance on this is a bit vague. I seem to recall them saying that within 5 miles there’s definitely a nexus, and further than that, it’s not a clear call… so if a party wants to alter a small tributary at a point 5.5 miles from the L.A. River… it’s unclear (probably subject to legal dispute) whether that portion of that tributary is actually fully protected by the Clean Water Act.
Jumping up and down with joy! Cheers to all who worked so hard for this.
Any idea how reversible this is? Can a new director of the EPA (appointed by a new president) push down from the top to have it stripped of this status? Has that happened before?
I wish we did not have to rely on Federal Law and had effective State Laws to protect the LA River. (I think navigability is what gives the feds jurisdiction via the commerce clause, which itself is getting challenged.)
@Alex – It’s probably somewhat reversible, based on the politics of whomever is calling the shots at EPA. The navigability determination has only been an issue since a supreme court decision (called “Rapanos”) about 4-5 years ago I think, so this is the first change of administration since then.
I, too, wish that we didn’t need to rely on Federal Law – and navigability tied to interstate commerce… There are some national efforts underway to take the word “navigable” out of the Clean Water Act.
Federal designation helps – but it’s just one (big) tool in the toolbox. Ultimately, our rivers, creeks and neighborhoods will be protected by communities that live along them. If L.A. communities connect with and value and steward L.A.’s creeks, then they’ll become healthier, whether or not the federal government acknowledges their importance or not.
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Tremendous news for Angelenos and for the future of the watershed. Bravo!
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Sorry – I think it ended up overshadowing the Hahamongna news – which is also a big thing!
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