Water practices revealed

soforkbishopcrkIn what many called a “rancorous meeting” at times, members and observers of the Bishop Creek Water Association sat down in the Bishop High School Library Tuesday night to hash out the low water situation this year. A retired Southern California Edison hydrographer also shed considerable light on past practices which he said had helped the lakes and West Bishop properties during dry years.

The meeting started with the dire news of an officially low water year and the efforts of Bishop Creek Water Association to spread what little there is. Reports said water has finally flowed into the Highland Drive area where wells had gone dry and that it took eight days for water to make it down the creek to Barlow Lane.

President of the Water Association, Fred Finkbeiner, said there would be no discussions on operations regarding individual properties. Heated exchanges followed. Some board members threatened to resign. Finally, in a calming presentation, retired Edison hydrographer, Burt Almond, revealed the Bishop Creek drainage water management history which lies at the heart of this year’s problem.

The Chandler Decree of 1922 spells out mandated creek flows through spring and summer months. To protect water for the upper lakes and for the stream and ditches in West Bishop, Mr. Almond said in dry years the Chandler Decree flows were not met. He said DWP allowed water to be held back in the lakes to meet water needs later in the season. DWP did not do that last year. Almond said as a result, the lakes, ditches and some wells dried up.

Almond reportedly said, as others have, that in previous drought years DWP Aqueduct managers and Edison came to agreement to hold water back. DWP’s Bob Prendergast said he had no knowledge of such agreements. In January, DWP Aqueduct Manager James Yannotta had said that although the Chandler Decree does not provide authority to LADWP to modify its provisions, DWP “has allowed SCE to store a portion of the City of Los Angeles’ water rights in South Lake and Lake Sabrina in the past….” He also claimed that LA only allowed water in excess of Chandler Decree rules to be held in the lakes.

Edison officials had earlier maintained that the Department of Water and Power allowed variations in water flow from the upper lakes down Bishop Creek to better manage water for the lakes and for properties below when needed. Tuesday night, Burt Almond confirmed those past practices by DWP.

According to observers at the meeting, Fred Finkbeiner suggested that he, Water Director Bob Harrington, Burt Almond, and Dan Golden of Edison meet with DWP Manager Yannotta to see if they could arrive at some resolution.

Los Angeles bought up most of the land and water that were involved in the Chandler Decree, so DWP apparently has the power to change that Decree to better serve the area. For now, those involved in the issue hope for a short term solution this season followed by long-term changes in the Decree.

As some pointed out, the Bishop Creek Water Association mission should not be finger pointing at neighbors but dealing with how DWP and Edison handle the Chandler Decree.

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Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago

I am aware of the resolution because it was spoken to at the BCWA meeting. I do not recall seeing you there Miss. Kessler.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob Brown

I have sources. The other question was what other needs do you feel take precedence over the Bishop Creek drainage – lakes, stream, ditches and ponds at homes? BK

Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Personally none. Legally maybe many?

Bob Brown
Bob Brown
8 years ago

Mr. Anaya lives two streets south of Mr. Almond. They obviously both care about water in their backyard, not the bigger picture. Mr. Anaya assumes the information Mr. Almond provided at the meeting is true. Risky! but easy. SCE and LADWP did come to a resolution this past year. They… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Bob Brown

What other water needs and how can we, including DWP, work together to best meet the needs – including those of West Bishop. There is a lot of water in the Owens Valley as it flows out of the mountains and into the Owens River. As the Owens Valley Committee… Read more »

The Truth
The Truth
8 years ago

Interesting how many times Mr. Prendergast can state the same truths and you will call him a liar, but Mr. Almond holds up some papers and puffs out his chest and you believe every word he has to say. It is easy to believe information when it aligns with what… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  The Truth

I’m not sure who the “you” is you are mentioning. I have read the Chandler Decree and the Sales Agreement. The Decree actually spells out stream flows from May through September. Those have been altered in the past. No one is knocking DWP hydrographers or calling them liars that I… Read more »

The Truth
The Truth
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

“You” refers to several in attentance at the BCWA meeting who were personally attacking Mr. Pendergast, not you personally Miss Kessler. My comments were not an attack on Mr. Almond, but a important clarification of the credentials he provided for himself and his perspective on the facts. While you, Bennett,… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  The Truth

I am not passing judgment on Mr. Almond or anyone else. Those are your words. This is still in the fact gathering phase. What are the consequences of “violating” the Chandler Decree? No one has actually responded to that so far. If DWP holds all the rights under that Decree,… Read more »

John Barton
John Barton
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

The consequences should be a citizens group taking DWP to court. The CD should be revised based on the fact things have changes. The economy of the surrounding area is now much more dependent on having an agreement that recognizes the importance of lakes with water for tourists to recreate… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago
Reply to  The Truth

The Truth? The fact remains that in the past SCE and DWP have resolved the issues of drought, decrees, flow management and there has been water in the ditches and domestic wells flowing . This past year there was not a resolution of these issues between SCE and DWP. This… Read more »

395Highway
395Highway
8 years ago

I am appalled at how quickly neighbors turn on neighbors at these meetings. Our board members donate their time, they are not responsible for either the drought, nor the decisions of Edison or DWP, and they are doing all they can to placate everyone. They do not deserve to be… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

No mention of Edison’s motive to flow water from the lakes to make hydro-electricity? I am curious why that aspect of the management of the lakes was not mentioned in the article. Edison very much as a motive to drain water from those lakes even in dry years. No one… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago

The reports of what Edison has done in the past say that the utility has asked DWP to allow less water to run out of the lakes to create a more consistent flow of water all summer long. Edison’s motive may be to generate power, but SCE has tried to… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

Burt Almond’s presentation included facts, data and a history of past cooperative management practices . The presentation also contained a proposed Mangement Plan for this years runoff based on the current snowback and Lake level conditions. The application of this plan is an example of a “Cooperative Community Based Solution”… Read more »

chris
chris
8 years ago

Informative article; thanks Benett. What a complicated, confusing, confounding issue. And are we ever in trouble!