News release from Owens Valley Committee

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) informed the Owens Valley Committee of its decision to postpone the testing of Well 385, a LADWP well located north of Bishop, CA, in an area known as Five Bridges.

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LADWP had scheduled the pumping to begin on December 3, 2018, but agreed to postpone operation pending conclusion of litigation and in light of dry conditions this fall.

The 1997 Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the County of Inyo, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California State Lands Commission, the Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, and Carla Scheidlinger (“1997 MOU”) settled twenty-five years of litigation over groundwater pumping to fill the second barrel of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

The 1997 MOU called for the Inyo/LA Technical Group to prepare mitigation plans for many areas of the valley adversely affected by LADWP land and water management activities during the period from 1970-1991. In 1999, LADWP accepted a mitigation plan prepared by the Inyo/LA Technical Group, which called for Well 385 and the nearby Well 386 to be permanently shut down because of damage dewatering from these wells had caused in the late 1980s to vegetation in a large area near Owens River.

In 2014, LADWP modified both wells. Subsequently, LADWP gave the wells new designations, argued the permanent shutdown no longer applied, circulated an Initial Study/ Negative Declaration, and scheduled a pump test. Claiming LADWP had failed to comply with mitigation obligations at Five Bridges and with the California Environmental Quality Act, two lawsuits were filed in 2017, one by the County of Inyo and the other by the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club.

On June 19, 2018, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors settled the County’s lawsuit, and the resulting agreement said the parties would, “temporarily suspend the [1999 Mitigation Plan] provision requiring Wells 385 and 386 be ‘permanently shut down’.”

Thus the testing of Wells 385 and 386 could proceed pending final agreement on a monitoring plan by the Inyo/LA Technical Group.

As LADWP and Inyo County planned to begin the pump test on December 3, Owens Valley Committee filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to halt the testing pending the outcome of the litigation Shortly afterwards, the City of Los Angeles’ attorney informed the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club’s attorneys that the pump test would not begin December 3, 2018, as planned and City has agreed to suspend the pumping pending the outcome of the litigation.

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