By Deb Murphy

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors will be holding a special workshop with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff this Friday. The purpose: coordinate preparations and emergency services for the impending epic spring runoff.

Judging from comments at Tuesday’s regular Board meeting, there seems to be a disconnect between the LADWP and the consortium of county, city of Bishop and state agencies attending an emergency planning session last week.

“We need real working cooperation with DWP,” said Sheriff Bill Lutze. “That’s fallen off with the new staffing. The guys I worked with over the last eight to 15 years are all retired now.”

“There seems to be a misnomer that we’re a flood control agency,” said County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio. “We’ve never had any water to control.”

Despite a discouraging meeting of emergency partners, county staff and Supervisors are counting on a traditional relationship between Owens Valley and LADWP in emergencies. District 4 Supervisor Mark Tillemans reminded the Board of the department’s involvement during the Big Pine fire just six years ago. “Things like that bring the community together,” he said noting the department’s men and equipment on site during and after the fire that destroyed 19 structures.

“It’s unsettling that management doesn’t understand how we work together,” said District 5’s Matt Kingsley. “The guys on the ground know what to do. They understand.”

In the meantime, the county, area Tribes and Bishop Volunteer Fire Department are working to clear channels, fighting a battle with wind-driven tumbleweeds. Staff is peering into the crystal ball of data from the last two high runoff years, 1969 and 1983, looking for clues in creek flows, temperature and precipitation trying to anticipate when and where the icy-cold tsunami will hit. Public Works installed a bigger culvert on the lower McNally Ditch, LADWP supplied the pipe.

Some of the missing links include a set of current inundation maps showing where the water may go if it jumps its traces and information on what, if any, areas of the LA Aqueduct are most vulnerable at maximum flows.

According to Lutze, LADWP is in the process of getting an okay from the Bureau of Dam Safety to increase the levels at Tinnemaha and Pleasant Valley dams up from operational to maximum capacities. “South Lake and Sabrina will spill,” Lutze said, “and probably Crowley.”

The department is moving water through the Owens Valley at a fast pace. The outflow from Tinnemaha has held in the mid 600 cubic feet per second rate for the last five days. Yesterday morning, 240 cfs flowed through the Lower Owens River Project, up from 79 cfs on Friday.

Lutze provided a bit of good news/bad news. The recent cool to cold evening temperatures will slow the runoff but another atmospheric river, formerly known as the Pineapple Express, is headed toward the Eastern Sierra.

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