Reincarnated River Has Some Years to Go

For Inyo officials and business owners, a well-placed story with color photos was better than a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. Reporter Louis Sahagun had spent several days during the flushing flows down the snake-like channel of the Lower Owens River. Southland vacationers will doubtless look at the river pictures and plan trips.

The Times article conveys some of the local excitement but also warnings about how drought could impact the infant river, and Ecosystem Science consultant Mark Hill said, “We have to be patient and work on ecological time, not political time. Some people,” he said, “expect to see significant change overnight. That’s not going to happen.” Hill is quoted as saying that “Our biggest obstacles are lawyers and amateurs.”

Okay. So, the Lower Owens River, virtually dry for more than 90 years, will take awhile to recover. Consultant Hill, an obvious realist, pointed to the possibility that one day drought might eat into the river water. The Times article quotes Hill: “If there was not enough water to go around and people were suffering, this project would be the first thing to go.”

Environmental groups who fought hard in court to make the river project happen may have something else to say about that. They held LADWP to its agreement and so did Judge Lee Cooper.

The news story makes it clear that the river will take time to return to its natural, full state. Maybe 15 or 20 years and millions of dollars. Animals, birds and people have already started to enjoy the return of water and greenery. Mosquitoes will create a challenge of a different kind in a few months.

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