El Nino Forces LA to Raise Banks of River
$3.1 million of emergency funding is going toward temporary flood prevention
By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2016 2:02 PM CST
Recent heavy rains courtesy of El Ni?o turned the Los Angeles River's typical embarrassing trickle into raging rapids.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(Newser) – A city that's made headlines for having too little water is preparing to spend $3.1 million to deal with a potential excess of it, NBC Los Angeles reports. LA officials are worried that this year's El Nino will force the Los Angeles River to do something highly unusual: spill its banks. "We're preparing for a worst-case scenario," says Col. Kirk Griggs with the Army Corps of Engineers, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "We feel we need to do that, and we owe it to the residents." To prevent potential flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers is installing temporary barriers to increase capacity along a 3-mile stretch of the river next to Interstate 5, NBC reports.

The temporary barriers, which are being paid for with federal emergency money, are similar to "giant sandbags," Phys.org reports. They'll add an extra 4 feet of clearance to the river's banks, according to NBC. The river was lined with concrete decades ago, and plants growing along the bottom of that stretch of the Los Angeles River have cut its capacity nearly in half. The temporary barriers will give some of that capacity back. Officials think it's unlikely the river will flood, but they'd rather be safe than sorry. "If [the river] floods, there is risk of significant damage, not to mention real and immediate danger to Angelenos," says Mayor Eric Garcetti. Frequent flooding before the river was paved killed many people and caused millions in damage in the early 1900s, Phys.org reports. (This year's El Nino could rival the scary one of 1997.)