– Press release from Eastern California Museum:
The largest river restoration project in the nation is underway in the Owens Valley, and one group has been observing the project’s progress for the past 11 years. Beginning with collecting baseline data from a dry riverbed, the river watchers then waded into a flowing river to continue documenting the changes created by the addition of water to a once-dry river and its nearby landscape.
The Eastern Sierra Watershed Project started collecting data on the dry riverbed of the Lower Owens River in 2002. When the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released water back into the Lower Owens River in 2006, the students participating in the Watershed Project continued to collect data each spring.
Photos and other information detailing the rather dramatic transformation of the stretch of 52 river miles from a dry or slightly soggy streambed to a flowing river will be presented on Saturday, July 27, at 7 p.m., at the American Legion Hall, at the corner of Hwy. 395 and Kearsarge in Independence.
Katie Quinlan and Leigh Parmenter of the Eastern Sierra Watershed Project will present the data collected by the middle school students who have been participating in the program over the years. Quinlan noted that the LADWP and the County Water Department are “officially” monitoring the status of the re-watered river. But the Watershed Project gives local middle school students the opportunity to participate in their own monitoring of the river restoration effort.
“The ongoing project has given new meaning to hands-on science education, as local students experience their natural environment as a living laboratory through real-world scientific activities,” she noted.
The presentation will include “before and after photos” of the Lower Owens River Project that students have taken over the past 11 years. Other data shows how the once-dry river is coming back to life and evolving as an ecosystem. Wildlife has been noted on the river’s banks, and life is also spotted in the flowing river itself. The most visible result of the re-watering effort is the stripe of green riparian vegetation winding along the meandering riverbanks, and the greenery sprouting along the river on the valley floor.
The transformation of the river and the valley floor it travels through occurred in a relatively short amount of time. In 1913, LADWP diverted the Owens River into the LA Aqueduct, which resulted in the river drying up from the Aqueduct Intake, north of Independence to the Owens Dry Lake. In 2006, a consistent, significant flow of water was once again allowed to flow in that once-dry stretch of river, when LADWP turned the water back into the streambed, creating the Lower Owens River restoration project as a mitigation measure the terms of the Long Term Water Agreement.
The Eastern Sierra Watershed Project was developed by the Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaborative Education, and has also been supported by LADWP, Inyo County, and the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools.
Saturday’s presentation is being hosted by the Metabolic Studio and the Eastern California Museum. Call 760-878-0258 for more information.
Photo caption: Students from the Eastern Sierra Watershed Project wade into their monitoring work on the Lower Owens River. Photo courtesy ESWP.