By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal
Powder Canyon in La Habra Heights is in the middle of an environmental restoration project.
The project, run by Habitat Authority and started in October, is in collaboration with Southern California Edison. It was brought on due to SCE’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which is a series of new and upgraded high-voltage electric transmission lines and substations that will be stretching through the Angeles National Forrest and down into the San Gabriel Valley area.
SCE agreed to consolidate most of its habitat mitigation requirements from Project segments 7 and 8 of the TRTP onto the Habitat Authority’s Preserve, which includes Powder Canyon.
According to Andrea Gullo, Executive Director of the Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority, 60 acres total will be restored to native habitat consisting of 53 acres of coastal sage scrub and seven acres of oak and walnut woodlands.
Gullo added that coastal sage scrub is a plant community made up of several different plant species and supports the coastal California gnatcatcher, a bird protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The habitat restoration in Powder Canyon started in October and included weed clearance by goat grazing. This has been followed by the killing of standing weeds and reducing the weed stored in the soil.
This needs to be done before seeding and planting.
According to Gullo, locally collected seeds will be used as much as possible for seeding and plant propagation followed by five years of maintenance.
Locally collected seeds have a greater chance of survival, ensure that the right subspecies are used, and ensures that hybridization will not be introduced into the area.
She added that temporary irrigation will be used for two-three years during maintenance to help establish the plants. The end result will be a self-sustaining native habitat.
There are several benefits of this project. The area will be restored back to its native habitat increasing the native habitat available for dependent animals.
Converting weeds to native habitat will increase the enjoyment of recreational users of the Puente Hills Preserve, and in particular Powder Canyon.
Also, the community will be safer from wildfires. Flashy fuels, estimated to make up the majority of the 60-acre site, will be removed. The restoration site will continue to be managed in perpetuity with funding by SCE used to establish a long-term management endowment.
Fall/Winter 2017/18 – Seeding and planting
2018-2023 – Plant maintenance and establishment
In addition, nearly 40 native plant species will be used.
The day to day coordination of the project is done by Habitat Authority Ecologist, Lizette Longacre. The project is regulated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and funded by SCE.
The Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority is a local government joint powers authority which manages 3,870 acres of hillsides in Whittier, Hacienda Heights and La Habra Heights.