The public gets a glimpse of the sites of the new US Forest Service visitor center in Lake Isabella

A drawing of the Lake Isabella Visitors Center. | USDA Forest Service

During a virtual hearing in late April, members of the public received an update from the US Army Corps of Engineers on the relocation of the US Forest Service visitor center to Lake Isabella.

The center has been relocated during the dam upgrades on the lake, and the Corps and Forest Service are reviewing possible locations for a new site. In the meantime, the center has been moved to the US Forest Center fire hall on Lake Isabella Boulevard.

The visitor center offers “permit sales, maps, brochures, trail guides, interpretive displays and information on recreational opportunities in the Kern River Valley,” the Corps said.

One proposed site, the Bob Powers Gateway Reserve on Turner Avenue and Suhre Street in Lake Isabella, poses the most environmental challenges, the Corps said in the April 22 public hearing.

“Investigators concluded that the site supports wetland vegetation and the current visitor center design would overlap with the areas are wetlands,” Yari Johnson, Corps biologist and environmental officer, said at the public hearing. .

Federal law requires the Corps to choose “the least environmentally damaging practical alternative,” Johnson said.

If the current configuration requires infilling of wetlands, then “either the design should be changed to avoid effects on wetlands or an alternative should be chosen.”

A vulnerable native plant, the Alkali Mariposa lily, lives on the Bob Powers Gateway Preserve property, Johnson said.

Kern Che County acquired the property in part to protect the plant, he said.

The plants could potentially be transplanted to mitigate the damage, Johnson said.

Commenting online, an audience member wondered if the Corps is exaggerating its concern for the lily.

“Local residents collected the lily and its seeds for protection,” she wrote. “This lily grows all over the Kern River valley and not just in this wetland. It is ridiculous to eliminate the Bob Powers Gateway Tract because of a plant that is really not in danger. “

Another resident disagreed.

“Many come to the area for the natural beauty and the special species,” she writes. “There are many alternatives. The movement of species is very detrimental to the species itself. Environmental biologists know that resettlement is never a recovery from habitat loss. “

Other possible sites include the old Bank of America building at the corner of Lake Isabella Boulevard and Nugget Avenue, one on Suhre Street, and one next to SR 178 at Lake Isabella Boulevard, near the Current construction staging area for auxiliary dam upgrades.

It will be up to the US Forest Service to decide on the options for the reception center, Corps officials said.

About Ariella McGuire

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