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Riparian Vegetation

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.

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