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Rehab project fueled by volunteer spirit

January 24, 2012

Volunteers clear dead tules from the bed of Buckley Pond No. 3 last weekend. The restoration project on the pond should wrap up by March, but the waters won’t be fishable for about a year. Photo by Mike Gervais

Rehabilitation at Buckley Ponds east of Bishop is nearing completion thanks to the work put in by dozens of volunteers.
Organizers Dick Noles and Dale Comontofski said the goal of the Buckley Ponds project is to eliminate years’ worth of tule growth to provide a healthier fish and water fowl habitat.
Buckley Ponds is a group of bodies of water, and the volunteers are tackling one at a time.
Work on the restoration project began with Pond No. 3 back in December when the Los Angeles of Water and Power diverted water from the ponds, allowing crews to burn the existing tule growth.
From there, Noles and Comontofski enlisted the aid of dozens of volunteers and organizations to get heavy equipment onto the dried pond bed to remove the remainder of the growth.
Noles said that after the burn, there was still about five feet of tule mass that was too dense and wet to burn.
Last weekend, volunteers brought six excavators, four CATs, 15 dump truck (mostly provided by LADWP), three bull dozers and one front loader to the pond to remove that growth.
“There’s so much going on out there that I can’t believe it,” Noles said. “The LADWP still has work that they’re doing out there, cleaning out the tule mass, and this weekend is going to be a haul weekend to get rid of it. But the LADWP needs to be commended for this, they’re really committed to finishing the job.”
The LADWP and volunteers are required to complete their work by February and begin re-watering the pond by March.
Once water is back in the pond, Noles said local bluegill and bass will be transplanted from nearby ponds into the newly restored pond.
Noles also said that before water flows back into the pond, crews will place nesting barrels for channel catfish in the pond. He said the catfish will be purchased from a private hatchery at a later date to allow time for the bluegill and bass to spawn and begin to repopulate the pond.
Crews will also create spawning habitat for the bass and bluegill to ensure the fish population has the resources to thrive.
“This is also going to be really good for waterfowl too,” Comontofski said, pointing out that removing the tules and clearing the pond will, hopefully, draw more birds to the area.
While the pond will be filled by fishing season this year, project organizers said it will not be a fishable body of water for about a year because the bass and bluegill that are stocked will need time to reproduce and acclimate to their new habitat.
Noles also said that he is working with the Bishop Lions Club to help raise funds to construct a handicapped accessible fishing deck at Buckley Pond No. 3.
“It occurred to me on Sunday that what we’re doing at Buckley Pond has got to be available to everyone,” Noles said.
The Advocates for Access to Public Lands is donating $500 to the fishing deck fund, and any other donations are welcome.
Noles said the deck is still in the planning stages, so the exact cost is currently unknown.
“This is a critical part of what this rehab is all about,” he said.
The construction of the deck must be completed before the ponds are re-watered, so time is of the essence.
In all, the Buckley Rehabilitation Project is a three-year endeavor that aims to restore two more ponds before it is complete. In the next two years, Noles and Comontofski said work will be done at Duck Pond and Saunder’s Pond.

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