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Reduce flood risk and improve resiliency.

Not all areas of the river have equal conveyance capacity. Raging flood waters fill the river channel near river mile 28.
Scott L, 2015. Source License: CC BY-SA 2.1.

The LA River did not always look like it does today. In the mid 1800s, the LA River was a braided stream that, during wet weather events, spread out over vast amounts of flat land.1Blake Gumprecht, The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth, 2001, pp 9-15.

As agricultural diversions, transportation infrastructure, and cities grew around the river, this vast floodplain was encroached upon by buildings and roads. After increasingly devastating floods, it was engineered into a concrete channel with basins, dams, levees, and floodwalls to move stormwater as quickly as possible to the Pacific Ocean to reduce flood risk to these communities. Not all areas of the river have equal conveyance capacity. In some areas, low channel capacity makes the probability of flooding of the river adjacent communities in any given year as high as 25%.2USACE. 2015. Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study, Appendix E, Hydrology and Hydraulics, US Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District. September. There will always be financial and physical limits to flood risk infrastructure. Therefore, we must strive for resilient communities that can respond to extreme flood events that exceed the river channel’s capacity. With the threat of a changing climate, the importance of reducing flood risk increases as the frequency and intensity of extreme storms change.


Steps that should be taken to achieve the goal

LA River Flood Risk Reduction Need
LA River Flood Risk Needs Ruler.
OLIN, 2019.

Needs: Flood Risk Reduction

Flood risk is related to both the capacity of the LA River channel to convey water in large storms and the area outside of the channel impacted by flooding.

To evaluate need related to flooding along the LA River corridor, the level of existing channel capacity was analyzed and combined with the floodplains directly associated with the LA River. Areas that may be subjected to sea level rise inundation and areas with high amounts of critical infrastructure and facilities in the floodplain were also assessed.
LA County Map
LA County Flood Risk Need.
Geosyntec, OLIN, 2019. Floodplain data from the LA County GIS Data Portal Flood Zones dataset, which is based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood hazard layers. More recent floodplain mapping was used between river miles 22 and 34 based on the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), October 2016, Floodplain Management Services Special Study LA River Floodplain Analysis. The Cal-Adapt Sea Level Rise Tool was used to identify 1.41 meters (4.6 feet) as the likely maximum increase in sea level rise by the end of the century. Though there is some uncertainty, a 1.41 meter maximum conforms with California’s Climate Change Assessments to date, which are estimated for California under the A1B and A2 emission scenarios. Channel capacity data was compiled from various sources including: US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Los Angeles District. 1996a, 1996b, 1997a, 1997b, and 1999. Los Angeles County Drainage Area Improvement Projects. Design Analysis Report and Design Memoranda; USACE Los Angeles District. 1991. Los Angeles County Drainage Area (LACDA): Review, Part I Hydrology Technical Report: Base Conditions; USACE: Los Angeles District. 2015. Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report, Final Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report, Appendix E. Table 17: Original Design Discharge and Existing Channel Capacity; USACE. 1953. Design Memorandum No. 1 Hydrology for Los Angeles River Channel, Owensmouth Avenue to Sepulveda Flood Control Basin; Geosyntec analysis using HEC-RAS models (USACE Los Angeles District. 2005. Los Angeles County Drainage Area Upper Los Angeles River and Tujunga Wash HEC-RAS Hydraulic Models).
The “Level of Channel Capacity” refers to the statistical return period that channel capacity is exceeded. Locations in the river with capacities to convey storm events with a greater than the 1% (100-year) flood event should be assessed for improvements. Areas with a very high need have capacity to convey no more than a 10% (10-year) flood event. Areas with a general need fall between the 10% (10-year) and 1% (100-year) conveyance capacities.
Floodplains are the lowland areas that border a river and though usually dry are subject to flooding. Floodplains are most commonly mapped where models indicate a 1% annual chance of flooding (100-year floodplain) or a 0.2% annual chance of flooding (500-year floodplain) in any given year (i.e., areas with a flooding recurrence interval of 500 years, on average). Areas within the 1% floodplain were identified as very high need and require flood management improvements. A degree of risk should be considered for the 0.2% floodplain, which was identified as general need. Areas not in a 1% or 0.2% floodplain were considered to have no need.
Areas subject to sea level rise, including approximately the lower 3 miles of the channel, have a higher need for flood risk reduction.
Critical infrastructure and facility types such as emergency facilities, evacuation routes, and wastewater treatment plants were included based on facility types identified in the 2016 LA County Comprehensive Floodplain Management Plan, and were collected from various sources. Given the lack of detail about the size of specific facilities, the relative density of facilities was used. Areas that had the highest density qualified as very high need, and areas with the lowest density qualified as general need. All areas outside of the floodplain were considered to have no need.

Sites with Very High Need for Flood Risk Reduction


Design Components that Address Flood Risk Reduction

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