The final season of construction on a three-year, approximately $2 million effort to bring back a high-elevation meadow at the South Shore is expected to start up Monday.
Work by the U.S. Forest Service on the High Meadow Restoration Project will include some short-term inconveniences for hikers and bicyclists, but should garner some long-term benefits for the area's wildlife.
The meadow, located at 7,700 feet of elevation in the mountains east of Sierra House Elementary School, has been impacted by historic logging and more recent livestock grazing activities.
Construction of more than 8,000 feet of new, meandering river channel in 2010 is part of the project and is expected to improve the area's ecosystem and help return the area to historic flooding patterns.
Bringing the meadow back to a more natural state is also expected to increase the diversity of species that can live there, said Stephanie Heller, a hydrologist with the Forest Service.
Meadow plant species, as well as amphibian species like green tree frogs and western toads have already started to make more frequent appearances in the meadow, Heller said.
Despite High Meadow's already majestic vistas, the addition of a greener, functioning meadow will also add to the area's beauty, Heller said.
"I think it's going to be a really dramatic change," Heller said.
This year's construction includes irrigation, erosion control, filling in the old river channel and constructing a temporary stream crossing over Cold Creek near the Upper Powerline Trail, according to a release from the Forest Service. Connecting the 2010 stream channel to the existing channel built is also part of this year's work, which is expected to last until mid-October.
Smaller projects are planned in the area for the next several years, but this is expected to be the last summer of major construction activities in the meadow, Heller said.
Work to upgrade 1.2 miles of High Meadow Road between the road's second gate and the Star Lake Trail intersection near the top of the road will also begin Monday. The work will also involve heavy equipment and will make the road impassable.
For safety reasons, people are advised to stay away from equipment working in the area.
Hikers and mountain bikers are encouraged to use Cold Creek Trail as an alternate route during construction. People with dogs should be especially cautious near construction areas, Heller said.
Work on the road is expected to be finished by the end of August.
More information on the High Meadow Restoration Project is available at http://tinyurl.com/highmeadowproject.