By Deb Murphy
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s controversial Five Bridges’ wells are back in the spotlight.
Last month, the department filed its Initial Study and Negative Declaration for a two-month monitoring test of W385R. The comment period ends October 23.
Inyo’s Water Department is still reviewing the Initial Study.
The Owens Valley Committee has looked at it and doesn’t like it. The committee and other Inyo water watchers have maintained the wells should lay dormant until the Five Bridges mitigation project reaches some level of success.
OVC’s president Mary Roper stated, via e-mail, “the organization has been in consultation with our attorney regarding the Negative Declaration.” OVC’s position is that the two Five Bridges wells are in permanent off status as a result of extensive damage caused by pumping in 1987-88.
The Committee is concerned pumping from deeper aquifers will lead to damage in areas not immediately adjacent to the wells, “as all Owens Valley aquifers are interrelated according to geologic studies.”
OVC goes on to cite issues in California’s Central Valley where extensive pumping caused catastrophic damage and ultimately led to the adoption of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
LADWP’s Initial Study outlines trigger levels at nearby monitoring wells, a private well northwest of W385R and at Fish Slough No. 2. In addition, the department will monitor vegetation during the peak growing season, using photo records from April 2016 as the baseline condition. Hydrographs from monitoring wells in the area will also be used, both during and after the test, to determine any potential vegetation damage.
Both 385 and 386 were installed in 1987 to draw down water from the adjacent gravel pit. In addition to de-watering the pit, water from both wells were exported to LA and used to irrigate mitigation projects. The wells’ operation significantly impacted vegetation and the wells were shut off in ’88. Following a two-month pumping test in 1993-94, the wells were “permanently” shut off.
LADWP modified both wells in 2014 to pull only from the deep aquifer, 320 feet below the surface and limit the combined volume of the wells from 16.3 cubic feet per second to 5.6.
The department maintains the wells are now new and not subject to the permanent off status. The current pumping test “will also be used to document whether Wells 385R and 386R are functionally distinct from the operation of the original Wells 385 and 386,” the environmental document states.
The full report is available at www.ladwp.com/envnotices.
Comments can be sent to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 111 N. Hope St., Room 1044, Los Angeles 90012, attention: Jane Hauptman.