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San Luis Rey River habitat maintenance resumes

Public Affairs
Published Sept. 13, 2013

OCEANSIDE, Calif. – Habitat maintenance along the San Luis Rey River resumed here Sept. 9 when RECON Environmental, Inc., once again deployed water trucks to help establish recently planted native vegetation in the riverbed.

Watering activities will continue Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., until Dec. 6, alternating between the river’s north and south banks. Crews operating along the south bank will use the levee maintenance road during the weeks of Sep. 23, Oct. 7 and 21, Nov. 4 and 18, and Dec. 2, restricting access to the bike trail atop the maintenance road during those periods.

The habitat restoration resumed after a suspension of work to comply with environmental restrictions based primarily on the nesting season for the least Bell’s vireo, a federally-protected species.

Tom Keeney, a biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, said the work is part of carefully planned management efforts along the final 7.2 miles of the river to re-establish a more representative natural environment and still maintain the river’s ability to reduce the risk of damage from flooding.

"We need to maintain a balance between providing flood risk management (along the San Luis Rey River) and maintaining a viable vireo habitat,” Keeney said.

Habitat loss caused by the growth of non-native vegetation in the riverbed has been a main factor for a reported decrease in the number of nesting vireo pairs along the river, a factor that contributed to the vireo's protected status.

Keeney said that the planting of nearly 58,000 black willow, sandbar willow and arroyo willow, Freemont cottonwood, mulefat and native herbaceous plants (annual plants that re-grow each year and never become woody), will help re-establish natural vegetation along the river, helping not only sensitive species like the least Bell’s vireo, but every other native species in area.