Inyo County approves LORP enhancement

By Deb Murphy

“Woody recruitment,” the official term used to describe tree-let volunteers, will get a helping hand along the banks of the Lower Owens River next month.

Inyo County has contracted with The Landscape Center to start planting willow and cottonwood pole cuttings starting in early February.

A tree-lined river was part of the vision of the project. Existing trees would drop their seeds in an inviting, moist soil creating rich riparian habitat along river channel, but nature wasn’t cooperative. The combination of drought and reduced seasonal flows resulted in far less recruitment than had been anticipated.

The work has to be completed around March 21, “before willow and cottonwood bud breaks,” according to the Inyo Board of Supervisors’ supporting documents for the January 17 meeting.

The $20,000 contract covers preparation, planting and protection for the pole cuttings. The work is part of the LORP work plan for 2016-17; the cost is shared between the County and the Los Angels Department of Water and Power.

The County Water Department is also applying for grant funding up to $200,000 from the California Division of Boating and Waterways to cover the cost of the intake and output for kayaks and canoes on the Owens River Water Trail.

The Trail project was approved for funding through a Natural Resources Agency grant last summer. The County is still negotiating a site agreement with the LADWP; work can’t begin until the agreement is reached. The Boating and Waterways grant, obviously, is contingent on that agreement.

Initially, the County had allocated $30,000 for basic improvements at the top and bottom of river trail. A successful grant from Boating and Waterways would provide higher quality materials and more attention to details, according to Water Department Director Bob Harrington’s Board presentation.

The end result would be reduced long-term maintenance. One detail required by LADWP, a single user waterless restroom facility, would also be included in the final product.

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