OCEA Project Finalist – Echo Park Lake Rehabilitation Project

September 5, 2014

This is the second of a series about the five finalists for ASCE’s Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) awards. Established in 1960, the OCEA Award recognizes a project that makes a significant contribution to both the civil engineering profession and society as a whole. The winner of this year’s OCEA award will be announced at ASCE’s Outstanding Projects And Leaders (OPAL) Gala, March 26, at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Today, read about the Echo Park Lake Rehabilitation Project.


Photo Credit: Black & Veatch Corporation

In 2006, Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act (Section 303), and was identified by the State of California as an impaired water body due to the presence of algae, ammonia, copper, eutrophic conditions, lead, odor, polychlorinated biphenyls, pH, and trash. Originally built in the 1860s as a reservoir for drinking water, the 13-acre lake, which is surrounded by 16 acres of park space, had become a Los Angeles icon that functioned primarily as a detention basin in the city’s storm drain system, while providing recreational benefits and wildlife habitat.

Over time, the quality of water in the lake had degraded, leading this project to become part of a $500 million Los Angeles Water Bond Measure entitled Proposition O. Black & Veatch Corporation was selected by the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering to design a project to improve the water quality in the lake to meet the objectives established by the California Regional Water Quality Board.

The bond-funded $45 million project redefined the lake as a stormwater treatment facility. To enhance water conservation, a liner system was installed to reduce water loss through the soil and maintain the lake’s water level, as well as reduce reliance on  municipal potable water for make-up water.

Water quality was restored to the park through innovative green solutions using treatment wetlands. These wetlands are designed to remove pollutants brought into the lake, eliminating the need for any chemical or mechanical treatment. The project design also allowed recreational use of the lake and restored the culturally significant lotus beds. The sustainable, rehabilitated lake and improved watershed returned the sparkle to a Los Angeles jewel.

Wrote the OCEA jurors, “Although not as costly or as large as other [OCEA] submitted projects, the Echo Park Lake Rehabilitation Project clearly demonstrated the sustainability aspects of the project, meeting the definition of sustainability–the triple bottom line. Additionally, it took what was once an eyesore in the community and turned it into a community asset, benefiting the 3.5 million residents of Los Angeles. It includes a large constructed wetlands component to harvest stormwater and also reduce the city’s need for potable water to maintain the water level in the lake.

“The design team’s decision to develop a submerged berm to divide the lake into cells to remove it from the California Division of Safety of Dams’ jurisdiction (and thus release it from having to comply with expensive California Division of Safety of Dams standards) was ingenious. The team used a naturally occurring bentonite-enhanced clay liner to reduce leakage, instead of an expensive synthetic liner, saving the city $12 million. The city ended up with better water quality in the lake and improvement of the lake’s aesthetic and recreational value.” 

 Next in the series, read about the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station

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