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.


James G. Yannotta

Manager of Aqueduct

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power


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

  1. Charles O. Jones April 11, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    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 time that Mr. Yannotta claims is the “driest year on record”, water conservation isn’t even addressed on DWP’s homepage?? A little navigating of their site turns up a some conservation info that really only addresses how the DWP will implement higher rates for water?? I don’t see a genuine commitment from the DWP to address the situation that Mr. Yonnatta claims is the worst on record.

    It’s past time for the LADWP to up their commitment to conservation.

    • Brian April 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

      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 more people constantly coming in, the net usage will keep going up. Perhaps desalination technology will eventually become economically viable to pursue on a wider scale.

  2. Steve April 10, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    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 there is not enough water to meet the demands of the Owens Lake clean up the Lower Owens River and all the other mitigation projects. Then there is not enough water to be sending what little we have to LA.

    LADWP has no right to destroy the Owens Valley or the Eastern Sierra in order to keep all the water headed to LA.

    LA needs to look a lot more like the Owens Valley before crying about shortages of water because of the drought.

  3. Philip Anaya April 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    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 to you for your considered decisions. My neighbor, Fred Malarky thinks he’s finally seen the truth . Now you have a retired SCE employee presenting flow data and flow solutions that have addressed the worst year of Droughts , 1976-77, without ditches gone dry, without domestic wells going dry . Don’t you want to hear from him ?
    Just for the record, Mr. Yannotta, the 2013-14 DWP management of the Bishop Creek runoff and DWP Extractions from the West Bishop Productions Wells have resulted in domestic wells no longer reaching the Lowered Water Table. There are obligations in the LTWA that address this issue . If there is a repetition of the LADWP 2013-14 Management and Extractions this 2014-15 run off year and there are additional Dry Domestic Wells that are a result of that Management and Extraction , LADWP surely has an exposure to some kind of responsibility for their Operations. Regardless of Chandler, Hillside or any other decree no one is going to tolerate a purposeful and knowledgeable Operation that deprives water from the homes and their water rights in the Owens Valley. No one is going to think that DWP is a decent neighbor in this eventuality , no matter what the runoff , which is 38% of normal at South Lake , not 30% .
    We all have had hopes for a normal mean average runoff this year . Hope has sure run short. It’s time to think of solutions. It’s time to respect and hear the contributions of Mr. Almond . We need to be thinking about next year. We need some reserve in South and Sabrina. We need to manage what we receive, not what we take . We need to do the right thing , Not the Water Right thing. I hope that the Owens Valley wakes up from this nightmare dream of drought and greed and finally all including the DWP learns the true value of Nature’s gifts and the consequences of the exploitation and desire for the Waters of the Inyo.

    • Bob Brown April 10, 2014 at 9:11 am #

      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 April 10, 2014 at 10:03 am #

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

        • Russ Monroe April 10, 2014 at 10:49 am #

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

          • Bob Brown April 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

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

          • Benett Kessler April 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

            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 not look for ways to help Bishop Creek drainage?

          • Bob Brown April 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

            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 and their needs. You have Owens Valley mitigation needs. You have the Chandler Decree and the Hillside Decree. I absolutley agree that a joint effort needs to be made. I am worried that there are too many needs and not enough water from Mother Nature. Even then, there are a lot of parties to hope for a compromise that will satisfy all.

      • Philip Anaya April 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

        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 . 38% or 30% both are bleak numbers for the runoff this year . All the more reason to cooperatively manage the waters well.
        And, I have a well and a water right and I hope it continues to flow.

        • Bob Brown April 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

          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 used only as preliminary data to supplement physical measurements. I would recommend waiting until the State comes out with their B120, but the forecasts for Mono and Owens are developed by LADWP anyway, so you are going to have to believe them. If you have an actual water right specified in your deed why didn’t you stand up at the meeting and say so? Being part of the BCWA does not mean you have a water right.

          • Philip Anaya April 10, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

            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 am very lucky to have this resource. I don’t take it for granted and I won’t let anyone take it without a fight. Your questions are considered and addressed ,what’s next?
            If you were at the last meeting of the BCWA you might have heard more than what you wanted to hear from me . I suggest that you should also contribute to this conversation with ideas and some solution to the management and operations of the DWP . They seem to be the only impediment to logic and cooperative resolution to the Bishop Creek Issues not forgetting folks with no water in their homes from their wells.
            One of the benefit’s of being a member of the BCWA is the opportunity to voice concerns ,offer solutions, attend the meetings and learn from your fellow members like Mr. Almond. $25 a year to be a member? We need to keep the BCWA alive and we need to pay our dues water in the ditch or not . The BCWA Board is made up of volunteer members , who have also requested “cooperative” management practices of the Bishop Creek Drainage basin by SCE and DWP , not an easy thing to do, not by the BCWA or SCE or the DWP.
            Oh, so if the snow pillow value from DWP is below South Lake then maybe South Lake might be a point or two higher maybe 39 – 40 % of mean average normal , still a dismal number . Would that be correct?

  4. John Barton April 9, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    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 selected number of individuals who have a stake (boat landing owners, sporting goods, Bishop Creek property owners etc) to sit down and see if a consensus could be reach that could sail through the courts. Compromise from all should be expected.


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