The question of whether the Los Angeles River is a real river is easy to answer ("Down by the (L.A.) River," by Judith Coburn, Nov. 20). A simple comparison between the Mississippi and the L.A. rivers reveals that the former drops from an elevation of 800 feet at Minneapolis to sea level in Louisiana over a distance of 1,820 miles, a very small gradient, or slope. The L.A. River drops about 790 feet over the 51 miles between Canoga Park and the Pacific Ocean. By contrast, over a distance of 51 miles, the Mississippi drops the equivalent of four to five feet, making the L.A. River's slope about 158 times steeper than that of the Mississippi.
Considering the above, the L.A. River is not a true river. It is a paved spillway channel and should be designed as required to move floodwaters to the sea as quickly as possible. For the protection of life and property, nothing should be done to compromise the primary responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and L.A. County engineers: to control flooding in the L.A. Basin.
Ray W. Anderson
Palos Verdes Estates
The environmentalists are misguided in their attempts to "restore" the L.A. River to its "natural" condition. A natural river is in balance with the surrounding landscape. There is nothing natural about the L.A. landscape, since everything has been paved over. So why shouldn't the river be covered with concrete?
Even better, why shouldn't the river be converted to a series of cisterns? It was reported last year that during one day of a winter flood, enough water to support Los Angeles for a year ran into the harbor. A series of cisterns along the riverbed, deep enough to handle all the flooding, could provide all the water we'd need. Let's change the L.A. River from a gutter into a reservoir.
Dr. W. R. Hale
That river is the great unifying force of the L.A. Basin. It does not belong to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It lies in waiting for the 500-year flood to wash away the cement harness that was designed to protect us from the 100-year flood.
The current treatment of the L.A. River not only deprives us of the benefits that a river can bring to a community but also threatens the young people who cannot resist jumping a fence, only to find themselves (at flood tide) trapped in a concrete tunnel of high-speed water.
Slowing the water with rocks, trees and natural growth would make the river safer and allow some of the water to sink through to our depleted water table. Even in revised flood-control channels, it could bring immense natural beauty to our communities, delighting us, rather than depressing us.
Once again, the families of those who have been swept to their deaths in floodwaters are being relegated to the status of pawns in the political dance between the so-called Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
When I was struggling to create a joint-agency swift-water rescue program following the death of my fiance in the deadly floods of 1992, I tried to gain FOLAR's support. I got the impression that unless I embraced that organization's political agenda without question, it wanted nothing to do with me or the families of other victims who died in floodwaters.
Coburn chose not to interview these people and described "No Way Out," a flood-safety video I produced, curtly, if not downright disdainfully. Any future communitywide discussion of the L.A. River should include rescue experts and the families of victims as well. Only we can speak for those whose voices were silenced too soon by the deadly torrents.
Nancy J. Rigg
I grew up playing in the L.A. River, which we then called "the canal." It ran directly behind Luxey's Beauty and Barber Shop, where my mother worked and where former Mayor Tom Bradley got his hair cut until the shop, at 112th Street and Central Avenue, closed. My friends and I would slide down the dirty riverbank and catch "crawdaddies," knowing full well that we'd get in trouble if anyone saw us. Even warnings that toilets were emptied into "the canal" didn't scare us off.
It's too bad that my children and grandchildren never got to catch the crawdads. The idea of taking a natural body of water and putting concrete under it must have originated with someone born outside of Los Angeles.
Regina Nickerson Jones
Years before the Army engineers built the "predictable and reliable" L.A. River, my father could watch deer graze at its banks as he fished for, and caught, salmon.