By Deb Murphy

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors has challenged the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to conduct an environmental study on the impact of two new wells in the West Bishop area or face legal action.

The decision was announced to an empty board room following the Supervisors’ closed session meeting Tuesday. As of Thursday afternoon, there was no response from LADWP.

The basis for the request was the changing conditions in the impacted area since the original California Environmental Quality Act studies were done in 1991. LADWP has maintained that study covered the two new wells identified in the Long Term Water Agreement and no review was necessary.

The extent of those changed conditions was the streak of dried up older shallow residential wells in 2013 followed by rising ground water levels flooding basements and running out of lawns and down streets.

Another element of the changing conditions since 1991 is development in the area. In a review of County building permits for new residents in West Bishop and the Meadow Creek area, Sierra Wave turned up 36 permits for single family residents pulled since 1991 in West Bishop, the impact area for the proposed well B-5 and 47 in the Meadow Creek development, in the impact area of B-2. In addition 44 private wells were drilled between 2013 and 2016 in West Bishop as the older, shallow wells ran dry in the second drought year.

The County and specifically the Water Department had taken significant heat from the public for a consenting vote on the department’s pre-construction evaluation report during a Technical Group meeting in early February.

Timing was important,” said Supervisor Matt Kingsley in a phone interview, noting that LADWP had applied for a permit on the new wells. “We had to make sure we had the best chance of winning.”

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