Letter to the Editor: San Gabriel River

Dear Editor:

Most Downey residents have never walked, run, or biked along the San Gabriel Bike Trail between Florence Avenue and Firestone Boulevard. For those that use the trail frequently as a mean of exercise, there is increased disappointment at the deterioration of the riverbed. 

Over the past decade, small trees have now become large. While the trees provide shade and shelter for homeless encampments, the unfortunate by-product of the homeless is an excessive accumulation of trash and excrement left behind. The area described has now become unsightly.

Of greater concern in the potential impact of a major, prolonged rainstorm. The drought has lingered and the riverbed hasn’t been “cleansed” by water flow in too many years. Unfortunately, the now massive accumulation of debris from further up river as well as the local riverbed garbage will be trapped in the overgrown trees. This situation will result in a slower flow of water potentially causing a rapid backup of water. A worse case scenario would be an overflow of the riverbed causing local areas to become flooded.

The Department of Public Works and the Army Corp of Engineers are responsible for river bed maintenance. Historically, large dump trucks would enter the riverbed and huge amounts of silt, sand and debris would be removed, resulting in the riverbed floor lowered to keep Downey and other communities from flooding during that predicted 100-year flood. 

I’m sure the cost of cleaning the riverbed, just for this small section, is enormous. Mitigation grants could be written with a proposal to clear the trees and the lower the river bed. While costly, it could be cheaper than the potential flooding that could result in a major and prolonged rainstorm. We’ve seen that destruction in other parts of the United States (Hurricane Madeline just one current example) and I’m certain no one wishes that to happen to our City of Downey and other local communities.

Jim Weidner