The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) intends to implement a conceptual restoration and design plan for Palisades Ranch that meets state and regional priorities to identify restoration measures for critical hydrological processes and habitat health. The objectives of the restoration plan were to improve riparian and aquatic habitats for special status species (including San Emigdio blue butterfly, Mojave tui chub, southwestern willow flycatcher, western yellow-billed cuckoo, least Bell’s vireo, and Lucy’s warbler) while keeping in mind water allocation (groundwater/aquifer recharge, water conservation) and maintenance required for sustainable and successful restoration. Given that MDLT proposes to implement a habitat restoration plan within an area of conservation, Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District (MDRCD or District) has agreed to serve as the CEQA Lead Agency for this project.
The restoration plan involves reconnecting a 170-acre abandoned agricultural field that was historically riparian habitat to the Mojave River by reestablishing a nested floodplain that resembles historic floodplain conditions. This would entail constructing a 6,600-foot main side channel, a 1,425-foot west branch side channel, and two higher elevation 5-year return interval channels within the proposed nested floodplain in the abandoned agricultural field. This approach would restore the historic floodplain and braided channel form during annual high flows, promote natural recruitment of riparian vegetation and beaver colonization, and boost groundwater storage of the floodplain aquifer. Approximately 130 acres of riparian habitat would be restored as a result of this project. The design would also include a 2-acre pond that would provide habitat for Mojave tui chub. The design would not be hard engineering, rather the design would create a system that allows natural processes to take place, creating the greatest ecological benefit possible.
The Implementation of the proposed Palisades Ranch Restoration Project—which includes fence installation, habitat restoration, and installation of signage—is anticipated to require up to 5 years (60 months) with a target completion date of 3 years (36 months), with the anticipated start date of construction in October 2022. The project could be completed as early as October 2025, though it may be completed at the latest around October of 2027.