Owens River Watershed
The Lower Owens River Project
The Lower Owens River
Project settles more than 24 years of litigation between the Department
and Inyo County over groundwater pumping and water exports.
The project is intended to mitigate for a host of lost
environmental values in the reach of the Owens River from the Los
Angeles Aqueduct Intake to Owens Lake, and associated springs and seeps
and off-river lakes and ponds. The
project is the largest restoration effort undertaken by the Department.
It has an extensive scope and includes a geographic area 65 miles
long and across the Valley from the White Mountains to the Sierra Nevada
Mountains. This area has
been designated the Lower Owens River Conservation area and consists
entirely of LADWP property. The
project includes not only restoration of the river but developing
habitat connectivity with off river habitats (numerous ponds and lakes)
and thousands of acres of wetlands, riparian pasture and upland grazing
management, sanctuaries for T&E bird, fish, and plant species,
recreation plans, and a pumpback facility. The project was initiated in 1993 with a controlled flow
study, data acquisition, and GIS data development.
The DWP and consultants are now in the final stages of developing
management plans for all resource components in the ecosystem.
Lower Owens River will be managed with a base flow of 40 cfs and an
annual riparian (freshet period) flow of up to 200 cfs.
These flows will allow natural processes to create diverse and
complex fisheries and riparian habitat.
LORP will result in the creation of hundreds of acres of new wetland
habitat for the benefit of wading birds, shore birds, and riparian
species. Elk, deer, and
other animals will benefit from the extensive wildlife habitat that will
accompany the water and land management actions.
& Seep Habitat Management
100 springs and seeps have been inventoried in detail.
Representative springs and seeps will be selected for long-term
monitoring to measure changes caused by groundwater pumping. Some
springs will be identified for restoration.
of a plan for indigenous threatened and endangered (T & E) species
of fish, wildlife and plants, forms a part of the overall goal of the
project to benefit biodiversity and comply with federal and state laws.
The T & E plan focuses on the occurrence, distribution and
habitat requirements of the federally listed species, as well as for
selected federal and state species of concern.
To ensure that the plan is not in conflict with the habitat
requirements of other species of the planning area, information on
candidate species of concern in addition to the federal T & E are
being incorporated. The
preliminary plan will identify conservation areas within the Lower Owens
River planning area and incorporate all the actions planned to support
recovery of T&E species. Most
if not all of the planned actions within the Lower Owens project will
benefit identified threatened and endangered species and measures are
being taken to fully integrate T&E species into all elements of the
& Adaptive Management
LORP is a long-term commitment to monitoring trends, measuring
attainment of goals, and decision-making on a host of ecological issues
through adaptive management. Monitoring
and adaptive management represents a major effort over many years to
reach goals set for the LORP.
and Hogback Creek Management
high quality riparian systems, Baker and Hogback creeks, in the Lower
Owens River will be managed for their unique values for threatened and
endangered bird species and associated habitat.
Conservation Plans (HCPs)
of the many programs the Department performs on an ecosystem-wide basis
that benefits the whole watershed management effort includes managing
threatened and endangered species. While there are some existing sanctuaries for T&E
species, and others in the development stage, the effort to maintain
water deliveries to the city without creating conflicts with T&E
species is too often piecemeal. The
Department will initiate habitat conservation plans for all T&E
species, on all Department lands, beginning with fish in 1999.
Successful implementation of HCPs will allow the Department to
continue water delivery operations for perhaps 40 years without risk of
conflict with T&E species and issues.
Mapping: Another ecosystem-wide program is the development of new
vegetation maps at regular intervals for all Department lands in the
Valley. These maps
illustrate vegetation changes over time that is essential information
for watershed management and planning.
These maps and associated data, like most Department databases,
are available to other agencies, universities, and researchers.
Photography: The Department also updates its library of aerial
photography and satellite images at prescribed intervals.
Again, this information is essential in watershed management and
photos and data are always made available to interested parties.
export, grazing/ irrigation, and recreation are the three primary uses
of the Lower Owens watershed. The future quality and quantity of water to be supplied to
the city is dependent on the management of both the water and the land.
Grazing lease management plans are being prepared for each of the
leases so as to meet best management practices and to conform to the
stated goals and objectives of the Lower Owens River Project.
Elements covered in the plans and future implementation include
threatened and endangered species, livestock and elk grazing, waterfowl
management, recreation and water quality both in the uplands and the
riparian areas. Management
plans are being designed to promote biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem
while allowing for the continuation of sustainable land uses.
The individual lease plans will be used to build the land use
management plan for the Lower Owens River and to continue to be in
compliance with state and federal laws that protect water quality and
threatened and endangered species.
As the restoration effort proceeds and the river and wetlands increase in biomass and diversity, the area will undoubtedly attract an increasing number of tourists and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Any increase in tourism and other recreation will be an economic boom to retailers and hotels in Lone Pine, Independence, and Bishop. The Department will adaptively manage recreation to prevent harm to the ecosystem and to minimize user conflicts. The Department expects to be proactive in our management as recreation use increases. Klondike, Warren, and Diaz lakes are valued recreation areas in the Lower Owens River. The Department will continue to provide management that promotes water sports, fishing, and hunting opportunities on these large lakes