Letter to the editor: DWP manager responds to Bishop Creek issues

soforkbishopcrkKSRW – Sierra Wave

1280 North Main St., Suite J

Bishop, CA 93514

Subject: Clarification of Information in the April 2, 2014 Sierra Wave Media Article Titled  “Water practices revealed”

Significantly below normal snowpack runoff in the Eastern Sierra over the past two years and during the current very dry year has resulted in very low, in some cases a lack of flow, in watercourses including Bishop Creek and ditches in the West Bishop area. In addition, this year’s snowpack is only 30 percent of normal. As a result, the Eastern Sierra is experiencing the driest three consecutive years on record.

Bishop Creek is supplied with water from South Lake and Lake Sabrina, both of which are at low levels due to extremely low runoff. These lakes are not managed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Southern California Edison (SCE) stores water in the two lakes and controls their operation. The 1922 courtordered Chandler Decree prescribes flow requirements for Bishop Creek that must be adhered to by SCE. The prescribed flow requirements can have an impact on lake levels, particularly in extremely low snowpack runoff years such as the Eastern Sierra is currently experiencing. The Chandler Decree does not provide authority to LADWP to modify the provisions of the court order.

While LADWP has allowed SCE to store a portion of the City of Los Angeles’ (City) water rights in South Lake and Lake Sabrina in the past, this does not modify the provisions of the Chandler Decree. LADWP had previously allowed SCE to hold back some of the City’s water rights in South Lake and/or Lake Sabrina when sufficient water was available in excess of that needed to meet flow requirements mandated by the Chandler Decree, along with LADWP’s Owens Valley obligations and water supply needs. These obligations include stock and irrigation water for 18 ranch leases, numerous use permits, and the Bishop Paiute Tribe, all of which are all fed from Bishop Creek. In addition, sufficient flows are needed in Bishop Creek for fish habitat. Water also needs to be provided for dust mitigation on Owens Lake, the Lower Owens River Project, and water supply for the City. During the 2013 runoff year there simply wasn’t enough water available to allow SCE to meet the provisions of the Chandler Decree and hold back the City’s water rights.

SCE and LADWP are working together to identify steps that can be taken to address concerns associated with low flows in Bishop Creek. If SCE wishes to pursue modifying the Chandler Decree, this would require going through the Courts. LADWP is willing to enter into a dialogue on this issue as long as LADWP’s ability to meet its Owens Valley obligations and water supply needs are met.

Without a doubt the single biggest and primary cause of low lake levels, low groundwater levels supplying wells, and low flows in creeks and ditches, is the driest three consecutive year period on record in the Eastern Sierra, with 2013 being the driest year on record for the State of California.

LADWP is committed to achieving all of its obligations in the Owens Valley. Unfortunately, the impact of successive years of significantly below normal precipitation, for which no one has control, has adversely affected what water is available to both the Owens Valley and Los Angeles.

Sincerely,

James G. Yannotta

Manager of Aqueduct

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

 

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14 Comments
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Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
8 years ago

So in simple terms – the DWP has to meet their water needs. Then, if there’s any water left, the remaining users can meet theirs? (After all, the lawns in LA must remain green regardless of the bigger picture.) Desperate times require a commitment from all parties involved. At a… Read more »

Brian
Brian
8 years ago

Higher rates usually equates to more conservation. With high mitigation expenses including the dust control efforts, rates should go much higher to cover those costs. Hopefully those costs equate to more water staying in the valley. One thing working against that is population growth. Everyone can conserve but if there’s… Read more »

Steve
Steve
8 years ago

I don’t buy it and no one that lives in the Owens Valley should ether. I drive over the LA aqueduct every day and it has been running with lots of water headed to LA. This is smoke and mirrors contrived to divide and conquer the opposition to LADWP. If… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

Thank You Mr. Yannotta for your Letter. Both you and I are recently newly arrived in the Owens Valley. Chasing data and facts is more difficult without a staff , but none the less there are folks who aim to please and share and provide accurate information, history and solutions… Read more »

Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago
Reply to  Philip Anaya

Mr. Anaya. Can you please provide how you arrived at 38%? Also do you know of any one in the Owens Valley that actually has a water right for their property? An assumption isn’t good enough.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob Brown

Mr. Brown, I have water rights on my property in Independence.
Benett Kessler

Russ Monroe
Russ Monroe
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Mr. Brown, We own the water rights on our property west of Lone Pine.

Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago
Reply to  Russ Monroe

Seriously? I have water rights in timbuktu as well. I was referring to water rights associated with the Chandler Decree

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob Brown

OK. You did say “Do you know anyone in the Owens Valley with water rights?” At this point, I would ask do you feel a joint effort should be made to find some compromise that would help all parties involved? Or, do you feel DWP should hold the line and… Read more »

Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago
Reply to  Russ Monroe

Sorry Bennett. You are right I did say Owens Valley. You have LADWP with their operational priorities, i.e. export of water to L.A. You have the Long Term Agreement. You have the BCWA and their needs, you have the Paiute tribe and their needs. You have the lessees on LADWP… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob Brown

Mr. Brown, The DWP Eastern Sierra Snow Survey April 1, 2014 lists South Lake at 38% of normal . The Eastern Sierra “Overall” Snow Pack is listed at 30% . Mr. Yannotta is addressing Bishop Creek in his letter and I’m sure that he did not wish to confuse anyone… Read more »

Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago
Reply to  Philip Anaya

Thanks Philip. I should point out that if you got the 38% at South Lake from the LADWP “Aqueduct Conditions Report” that that value is for the snow pillow below South Lake. There is no snow survey course at South Lake. Beware the snow pillows are notoriously imperfect and our… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob Brown

Mr. Brown , I have well and I think I have the right to extract the resource of water from the Aquifer . I also have a conveyance ,a ditch most probably an easement for the DWP to supply it’s Lease Holders across my small part of the Valley. I… Read more »

John Barton
John Barton
8 years ago

The court ordered mitigation projects such as the Lower Owens River and Owens Lake should not come at a cost to other areas of the valley such as Bishop Creek or the businesses who rely on higher lake levels for the tourist season. I would encourage SCE, LADWP and a… Read more »