7/7/10  U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday declared the entire concrete-lined Los Angeles River channel "traditional navigable waters," a designation crucial to applying Clean Water Act protections throughout its 834-square-mile urban watershed.

The designation overturned an earlier ruling by the Army Corps of Engineers that only four miles of the river were navigable, which would have made it easier to develop its upper reaches by eliminating the need for certain federal permits.

David Beckman, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, suggested that the shift could affect the way many other river systems are managed.

"The EPA's decision has been closely watched as an indicator of whether similar rivers throughout the West — dry as a bone one day, a torrent the next — would lose historical protections under the Clean Water Act," he said. "So this is great news. It means less pollution in the river and provides a vital support for community efforts to rejuvenate and restore it."

Among those listening at the news conference was Heather Wylie, a former project manager in the Ventura field office of the Army Corps of Engineers, who lost her job after kayaking down a stretch of the L.A. River in late 2008.

The expedition was in protest of the agency's ruling that year that only a small portion of the river was boat-worthy. She was suspended from her duties and eventually left the agency.

"All I did was go kayaking to make a point about Clean Water Act protections," she said. "I am grateful for the EPA stepping in and fixing this."

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