soforkbishopcrk(This is a letter written by the Owens Valley Committee to the Inyo-LA Technical Group by OVC VP, Daniel Pritchett)

Inyo-LA Technical Group

C/O Bob Harrington

Inyo County Water Department

PO Box 337

Independence, CA 93526

C/O James Yannotta

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

300 Mandich St.

Bishop, ca 93514

Dear Technical Group members:

The OVC calls your attention[1] to a water management problem affecting much of the Bishop area and many members of the Bishop Creek Water Association.

During the 2013 runoff year the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power unilaterally decided to change its longstanding dry-year water management practice on the Bishop cone. According to the Inyo Register (Aug 2, 2013), DWP ceased granting “variances on the Chandler Decree” to Southern California Edison (SCE). Without a variance, SCE was unable to store water in South Lake and Lake Sabrina during peak runoff for release later in the season. This failure to store water led to the unprecedented drying of ditches late in the 2013 irrigation season in the Bishop area. The subsequent drying of numerous residential wells was attributed by the Inyo County Water Department to lack of recharge, due largely to dry ditches. Water Department data also showed the problem was exacerbated by increased pumping from DWP wells after their enlargement in 2000.

At the Bishop Creek Water Association (BCWA) meeting of June 3, 2014 it was stated that ditches will again dry late in the irrigation season unless water is stored immediately. It was also disclosed that once again, DWP is not granting a variance to SCE, thus precluding storage of water. At the same BCWA meeting the hydrological havoc (now including flooded basements and wellheads, in addition to dry wells) currently experienced in southwest Bishop was attributed directly to last year’s ditch dessication followed by this spring’s re-saturation. Technical Group members from both DWP and Inyo County participated in this BCWA meeting and did not challenge this attribution.

Attainment of the goals of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement requires the Technical Group to modify current management to avoid a recurrence of last year’s ditch-drying. The short term solution, as outlined at the BCWA meeting, would be to immediately give SCE permission to store water at Lake Sabrina and South Lake for release later in the year to augment base flows. The longer term solution would be devising a surface and groundwater management strategy to maintain at least minimal ditch flows independent of annual variation in runoff.

In addition to modifying management, we request the Technical Group to determine, as soon as possible, appropriate mitigation for the significant impacts which have already occurred to private entities and irrigated lands in the Bishop area.



Daniel Pritchett

Vice President, Owens Valley Committee


[1]    City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and County of Inyo 1991. Response to comments on September 1990 draft environmental impact report. Vol. I. pg 2-29:

“However should it be believed that a significant effect on the environment (as defined under CEQA) has or will occur due to the project, any person may bring the matter to the attention of Los Angeles or Inyo County and/or employ any other available legal right or remedy, including CEQA.”

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