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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16 Responses to Water practices revealed

  1. Bob Brown April 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    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 April 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

      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 April 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

        Personally none. Legally maybe many?

  2. Bob Brown April 10, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    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 agreed they are not the only parties in the Chandler Decree and that it would be against court order to act on behalf of others. There are plenty of staff members working for both companies that can derive a basic water plan like Mr. Almond presented. His water plan keeps water in his pond year round. It does not address all other water needs in the Owens Valley.

    • Benett Kessler April 10, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      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 pointed out, DWP can pump back Lower Owens River water into the aqueduct – a lot more than is needed in the Bishop Creek drainage. DWP promised, in the Long Term Water Agreement, not to damage the Owens Valley environment. What are your credentials re: knowledge of what SCE and DWP have been doing?
      Benett Kessler

  3. The Truth April 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    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 you want to hear. Mr. Almond was never a manager for Southern California Edison. In fact, he was only a lower level field hydrographer for less than 5 years. His other positions were in supervision and maintenance, which had very little to do with water management decisions. Staff working for Southern California Edison and the Los Angleses Department of Water and Power have far more knowledge than Mr. Almond could every hope to have on the intricacies of Bishop Creek hydrology. Mr. Almond has long been removed from the game and is not knowledgeable on all the requirements SCE and LADWP now have. LADWP does not have the authority to unilateraly manipulate the Chandler Decree whether it had been done in the past or not! While they may own most water rights from the original Decree it will be up to the BCWA to identify all other parties and show that their deeds now include that right. The public also needs to wrap there head around the Chandler Decree vs. Sales Agreement. The LADWP can allow SCE to hold back water in the winter months so that more starting storage is available prior to runoff. This is the “right” Mr. Yannotta is referring to. The Sales Agreement dictates where South lake and Lake Sabrina can be in April. The Chandler Decree and the runoff year dictates where the reservoir levels are in the Fall. SCE generates around these rquirements and nothing else no matter what conspiracies you continue to believe.

    • Benett Kessler April 7, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

      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 know of. Some are questioning LA’s motivations. This is a subject that needs more revelation and not obstruction from attacks on Mr. Almond or those who wish to know what might save the ecology of the Bishop Creek drainage and the west Bishop lands. As someone reportedly suggested at the BCWA meeting, let’s not finger point but find answers for a better life. You might try the same philosophy.
      Benett Kessler

      • The Truth April 8, 2014 at 7:57 am #

        “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, understand his insignificance with regard to the bigger picture, the rest of the BCWA does not, which was very clear at the meeting. While the data does suggest that the Chandler Decree flow regime has been altered in the past we do not know by whom or by what circumstances. Any form of proof of who or why has yet to be seen. Besides that, LADWP clearly addressed the fact that they are not willing to unilateraly alter the flow regime even if it had been done by LADWP in the past. If anything, while frustrating, this shows LADWP’s honesty and acknowledgment of their true position within the Chandler Decree. The answer to this problem is straight forward. Someone needs to identify each and every subdivision listed in the Chandler Decree of 1922. They then need to see who owns that land now. Then a detailed look at the deed to see if a water right was assigned to the most recent land transaction on that parcel. At that point once you have idenified all of those who still hold actual water rights (including those held by LADWP), they need to draft a revision to the flow regime in the Chandler Decree and present it to the Federal Court. SCE and LADWP should not be expected to assume the liability of modifying the Chandler Decree at their discretion. There is no doubt a modification to the Chandler Decree would benefit year round flows in Bishop Creek. Until someone steps up and does the work necessary to properly modify the court order the finger pointing will continue. Lets also remeber that the Chandler Decree was developed to deliver flows from April 1 to September 30 for irrigation and agriculture. Pre-1900, without dams at the top of the watershed, Bishop Creek would have performed exactly how it did this past year. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. Do we want water in people’s backyards year round, or do we want the public land that makes Bishop a beautiful open space to conitnue to be managed responibly by LADWP? Im afraid Bishop Creekdoes not provide enough water to do both in all years.

        • Benett Kessler April 8, 2014 at 8:51 am #

          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, they are the decision makers. No one else has currently come forward as a party. We don’t know who you are or what your credentials are. So your rhetorical question about do we want water in backyards or open spaces does not resolve anything. Perhaps DWP’s only motivation is, as it has always proven to be, get as much water as possible. If so, there is little hope of working together to protect the Bishop Creek Drainage. If DWP wanted to work with the Eastern Sierra, they could make the move to alter the Decree. Benett Kessler

          • John Barton April 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

            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 on. That wasn’t a concern in 1922. Today numerous business depend on that. In low water years I’d rather see water in the lakes rather than in my backyard if I had to choose.

    • Philip Anaya April 8, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      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 past year there were wells that were effected by the lowered watertable. DWP extracts water with several production wells and they manage the runoff and flow throughs in the ditches throughout West Bishop. Are they responsible for dry ditches and dry wells?
      This is one time I would call out someone who chooses to not sign their name to a contribution to a Sierra Wave story. Especially when they sign the truth. Thank You Mr. Almond if you read this . We appreciate your efforts, we appreciated the truth.

  4. 395Highway April 3, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    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 threatened with lawsuits or insulted. Shame on those of you who practice such tactics.

  5. Desert Tortoise April 3, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    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 seems to have challenged Edison on this point. Just something that struck me.

    • Benett Kessler April 3, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      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 manage the flow to the benefit of the environment, lakes and downstream water users.

  6. Philip Anaya April 3, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    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” to the effects of this 3rd year drought. Stake holder Groups and indivduals have weighed in with support for a solution . SC Edison is ready to particpate . Inyo County Water Department is seeking a solution and Burt Almond has taken the time and stepped up with a plan that will benefit the Lakes , the ditches , the domestic wells , the Ranchers and the LADWP will ultimately receive their water. Mr Almond’s tenure as a SCE manager successfully managed to avoid all these problems in the past dry years and he is offering a solution once again . The Community is asking Mr. Yannotta and the DWP to meet and to find a way to get 50 cubic feet per second of water down Bishop Creek on a consistant basis this year and do what is right not just what is their water rights. It is time for the DWP to embrace the idea of cooperative operations not only in the Bishop Creek Drainage but in the entire Inyo. Bishop Creek would be a good place to start .

  7. chris April 2, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

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


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