Chapter

The Sun Is Shining over Southern California: The Politics of Federal Flood Control in Los Angeles, 1935–1969

Jared Orsi

in Hazardous Metropolis

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780520238503
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930087 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520238503.003.0006
The Sun Is Shining over Southern California: The Politics of Federal Flood Control in Los Angeles, 1935–1969

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The Los Angeles River was a picture of hydraulic order in the 1960s, attributed to the involvement of the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps brought considerable technical expertise and badly needed federal money to bear on a problem that had confounded local efforts for more than two decades. But the emphasis on the corps's contributions is something of a deus ex machina, the engineering version of the cavalry inevitably riding to the rescue at the end of some 1950s Western movie. That emphasis misses the deeper questions of why the corps got involved at all and what enabled the federal engineers to have so much apparent success in taming the waters. In short, praising the technical wizardry of the Army Corps is accurate but incomplete; it obscures the many contingent factors of politics and climate that limited the range of options that could be imagined and implemented and that facilitated the engineers' success. These questions are important because within a decade, many southern Californians, including some engineers, were doubting whether the accomplishments of the midcentury technocracy were triumphs at all.

Keywords: floods; flood control; Army Corps of Engineers; Los Angeles

Chapter.  10697 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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