Crews from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power are beginning the second phase of a habitat improvement project east of Bishop.
The LADWP has drained and will be burning Rawson Pond No. 1, just south of Buckley Pond, this week to remove an excess growth of tules. With the pond burned, a group of community volunteers will meet early next month to dredge and rebuild the pond beds, making it an ideal fishery for anglers and a comfortable habitat for trout, bass, catfish and blue gills.
The LADWP partnered with Dick Noles and an army of volunteers that he rallied together in late 2010 to burn and rehab Rawson Pond No. 3 the following year. That project was the first in a series of pond rehabilitation efforts that Noles hopes will continue for several years and rehabilitate nearly all of the ponds located on LADWP land along the Owens River east of Bishop.
Crews from LADWP and CalFire will be burning in the mornings all week and said residents in Bishop can expect to see smoke.
“The public is asked to not report the smoke and fire in controlled burn areas,” LADWP Public Information Officer Chris Plakos said. “Crews will monitor the fire throughout the burn and will take precautions to help keep smoke away from town.”
After the tules are burned, crews will allow the dust to settle for several weeks before removing the burned bio-mass and beginning work on reconstructing the pond bed.
Part of that reconstruction will include digging channels in the pond, creating ideal habitat for channel catfish and other warm water species that will eventually be stocked in the pond.
The groups and agencies who have volunteered to dedicate time, materials, equipment and manpower to the project include Noles’ Advocates for Access to Public Lands group, the Eastern Sierra Chapter of the California Waterfowl Association, Inyo County Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Eastern Sierra Chapter of the California Deer Association, local area contractors, the Bishop Lions Club, California Department of Fish and Game, Southern California Edison, Inyo County and, of course, the LADWP, which owns the property the ponds are located on and is ultimately responsible for allowing the volunteer crews to do the rehabilitation project. The LADWP has also said it will activate a program to keep tules from encroaching on the ponds after the rehabilitation project is complete.
Noles said a volunteer force of more than 40 individuals will begin hauling the tule mass the weekend of Jan. 9. The LADWP has offered to pay for fuel for all volunteers during the haul weekends, and local restaurants have stepped up to feed those working at the ponds.
“Once complete, the project will improve recreational access, the warm-water fisheries and waterfowl habitat for the public to enjoy,” Plakos said, adding that the whole pond rehabilitation project is the brainchild of Noles, who has rallied the volunteers and created the plans necessary to get the work done.
Last year, the pond rehabilitation group completed projects at Rawson Pond No. 3, stocking it with fish in early spring.
Noles said that the pond was fishable this past summer, but anglers were asked to practice catch-and-release there to allow the fishery to establish itself after the major overhaul. He said he expects Rawson Pond No. 3 to be healthy enough for catch-and-keep fishing this coming fishing season.
Rawson Pond No. 1 will be filled with water and some fish by this coming fishing season, but again, project leaders are asking eager anglers to practice catch and release there for at least a year to allow the habitat to develop.
To encourage that development, crews will be anchoring Christmas trees at the bottom of both ponds to provide habitat for young fish, so they can hide and protect themselves from larger fish until they reach a catchable size.
As with last year’s project on Pond No. 3, once the dead tule mass is hauled away, and before the pond is refilled, Noles said the Bishop Lions Club will construct a handicap-accessible fishing deck at Rawson Pond No. 1 to ensure everyone in the community has an opportunity to enjoy the revitalized pond.