LORP questions: OVC discovers water pumped back to aqueduct could fill South Lake

ovcboardNew Owens Valley Committee Board Investigates Lower Owens River Project   (Press Release)

Owens Valley Committee (OVC) is watching to ensure the goals of the Inyo/LA Water Agreement and its numerous mitigation projects are met.  OVC members, including new Board President Mary Roper, convened a study session regarding the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) on the afternoon of March 27, 2014, which was hosted by Inyo County Water Department.  Staff of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) were on hand to answer questions, and representatives from Sierra Club and California Department of Fish and Wildlife joined the group.  These parties are signatory to the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a companion to the Water Agreement which bolsters environmental protection for Owens Valley,

A focus of this gathering was to better understand the LORP pumpback station.  The pumpback station is a large facility near the mouth of the river, south of Lone Pine, that captures LORP flows and controls where the water goes next.  The facility includes: a large forebay; weirs; a big metal shed that houses pumps; power lines; and related infrastructure.  Water arriving at the facility may be pumped up to the Los Angeles Aqueduct or into pipes supplying the Owens Lake dust control areas.  Any water in excess of the pumps’ capacity flows through the weirs and down to the delta, the place where river water would naturally enter the lake.  The maximum amount of LORP water LADWP is permitted to pump from the forebay is 50 cubic feet per second.  This is equivalent to 36,200 acre-feet per year, or three times the amount of water needed to fill South Lake!

The group also stopped near “the islands” reach of the LORP, north of Lone Pine and below the Owens Valley Fault.  Here, for a distance of about three miles, there is no obvious river channel, and LORP water spreads over the land surface, giving rise to thickets of tules (bulrushes), which inhibit access for people and livestock.

The afternoon was informative, but many questions remain.  For example, locations where water quality is a concern, and how flow manipulations might help, have not yet been addressed.  The sun set all too soon, leaving unanswered questions and unvisited sites for another day in the long term process of adaptively managing this riparian resource.

This will be the first of several OVC LORP study sessions, with the ultimate goal being the best outcome for Owens Valley.

OVC members and others at the LORP pumpback facility.  From left to right: Sally Manning, Nancy Masters, Mary Roper, Rose Masters (kneeling), Nina Weisman, Mark Bagley (Sierra Club and OVC), and Larry Freilich (Inyo County Water Department).  (Photo by Philip Anaya)



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Wynne Benti
Wynne Benti
7 years ago

On Earth Day in 1990, as the Rivers Conservation Subcommittee Chairperson for the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Chair for the River Touring Section and an avid paddler, I worked with Lewis McAdams, (Executive Director Friends of the L.A. River), David Bolling (Executive Director, Friends of the River) to conduct the first Earth Day Celebration of the L.A. River which included organized canoe trip from Betty Davis Park down the Glendale Narrows, one of two natural sections of the river (the other being in the Sepulveda Basin). Senator Art Torres came to canoe the river. Then, there was a proposal to use the river channel as an alternate freeway route to relieve rush hour congestion. I made up bumper stickers that said “I canoed the LA River 1990.” It was a great community event, with informational booths, live band, attended by several thousand people.

The beauty of the location was, that the park (at Victory and the 134) was situated above and out of the river channel, so that activity within the actual riparian habitat was minimalized to protect the few miles of natural stream bed from the impact of the day’s events.

Michael Prather
Michael Prather
7 years ago

Good to see Owens Valley Committee out on the LORP where things are ‘real’. There is no substitute for on the ground knowledge. You are making a difference. An opportunity exists for OVC to take over the river stewards work that the Inyo County Water Department organized last year. The work focused on the LORP and involved channel clearing and tule cutting for recreational paddlers. A project like this might eventually expand to build a bridge with river activists and paddlers in Los Angeles and could even grow into a boating tour business as a fund raiser each year for OVC. The LA River had 2,000 participants last year during the season from May to September.

There is so much work to be done. On a personal note, please invite the Inyo County Water Commission next time. We like to learn too.

Factoid – the amount of storm water that flows through the LA flood system is equal to the water being used on Owens Lake each year. Citation – Interpretive kiosk at Echo Park Lake in LA.