Riparian forest and shrub communities: William Brewer noted
in his 1864 trip through Owens Valley,
The eastern slope of the Sierra is
almost destitute of trees save in the canyons and along the streams (Farquhar
1974). This may be the first written reference to Owens Valley wooded
riparian communities. These occur, as Brewer noted, along streams flowing from
the Sierra Nevada, along the Owens River, and in other areas of very high water
tables. Important tree species include Populus
fremontii (Fremont cottonwood), Salix gooddingii (Goodding’s
black willow), Salix
laevigata (red willow) and, along a few streams in southern Owens Valley, Quercus
kelloggii (black oak). Common shrubs include Salix
exigua (Coyote willow), Betula occidentalis (water birch) and Rosa
woodsii (wood rose). Leymus triticoides (beardless wildrye)
is a common grass and rushes and sedges are abundant as well. Tamarix
ramosissima (tamarisk, or salt cedar) a non-native shrubby tree has
invaded many riparian areas in the Owens Valley and is the object of on-going
eradication efforts. Riparian forest communities statewide are classified
as “very threatened” by the California Natural Diversity Database (Sawyer
and Keeler-Wolf 1995).
Under the EIR to the LTWA stands of vegetation of
significant environmental value such as
riparian vegetation dependent on springs and flowing wells, stands of willows and cottonwoods not
already shown on management maps were to be identified by the Technical Group for monitoring purposes (p.
5-5 City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and County of Inyo
1990). As of February 2004, I know of nothing to indicate the Technical Group has ever identified these stands nor initiated the required monitoring.
The extensive riparian woodland which formerly existed along the Owens River has been greatly diminished due to Los Angeles's de-watering of the River south of the aqueduct intake at Aberdeen. The Lower Owens River Project (LORP) which calls for restoration of 40 cfs flows in the River from the aqueduct intake down to a site near Lone Pine (close to the bed of Owens Lake) is expected to help riparian forest and shrub communities along the approximately 60 miles of river channel to be re-watered.