Inyo County seeks state aid in West Bishop water issues

Press release

The County of Inyo, with assistance from the California Department of Water Resources, is taking major steps to address a situation plaguing West Bishop in the form of wildly fluctuating hydrological conditions.

The owner of this home is waiting for the water to recede so he can replace his sprinkler line. Earlier this week, the groundwater was up to the top of the board.

File photo

Responding to a request from the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, two experts with the CDWR arrived in Bishop this week to assess the situation first-hand and do their own analysis. Dr. Bob Harrington, director of the Inyo County Water Department, said technical staff with the Water Department and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were on hand to provide assistance and data that the two departments have

collected related to the problem.

CDWR staff visited problem areas to examine groundwater conditions and the problems that are occurring with public and private property due to the conditions.

According to Harrington, CDWR staff will provide their written assessment of the problem and any recommendations they have in four to six weeks.

Growing concern over the situation prompted Dr. Harrington and Inyo County Emergency Management Specialist Kelley Williams to get in touch with the California Office of Emergency Services on Wednesday, June 22.

State and county officials held a conference call Thursday, June 23 to discuss a possible request for state assistance. On Friday, June 24, the County decided to amend its existing resolution proclaiming a Local Drought Emergency, to include the request for access to state resources and experts in analyzing the West Bishop situation and making mitigation recommendations.

That amended resolution was added Tuesday, June 28 to that day’s Board of Supervisors agenda as an urgency item and was adopted unanimously. County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said the County hopes CalOES will accept the
amended resolution but noted the Board may be asked to proclaim the West Bishop water table problem a new, separate local disaster.

About 100 homes are thought to be impacted or threatened. While the drought is the most likely culprit, Carunchio said the County wants the California Department of Water Resources to make the determination as to the cause and what can be done to remedy the situation.

While the determination of cause is pending, it is known that hydrological conditions in West Bishop first began fluctuating in 2013 as a result of lower-than-normal releases of water to Bishop Creek in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record for California.

When water was returned to ditches and ponds that had been dried the prior year, some homeowners experienced problems due to unusually high groundwater levels.
These effects have worsened this year.

Public Works Director Clint Quilter told the Board of Supervisors that in addition to the damage happening to private property, his crews are starting to see depressions develop over underground utilities.

He said the problem can be fixed, but not until they know exactly where the water is coming from and where it is going.

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6 Responses to Inyo County seeks state aid in West Bishop water issues

  1. Deb July 16, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    Rick O’Brien, there is no way to know how much Crystal Geyser is pumping in Olancha. CG Roxane refuses requests for accountability. CGRoxane has admitted that they plan to pump an additional 600,000 gals a day when their new addition goes on line. And they are moving fast on the new facility from what I see. HELP. It also has me wondering..does this mean I can sell my well water in bulk to water bottling companies? If CG can suck us dry for a very nice profit what is stopping the rest of us who own our property and water rights? What about another water bottling company coming in and setting up? This is disturbing. Southern Inyo county pays the largest amount in taxes and we are treated with less concern because we are not as populated as the northern part of the valley.

  2. OV5G July 11, 2016 at 6:27 am #

    While West Bishop is in a state of “Drought Emergency”, the City of Bishop (with boundaries approximately 1 mile away) has chosen to remove its mandatory conservation practices that were in place last year. This is taken from the May 25, 2016 Sierra Wave article:
    “City of Bishop press release
    …Since the state has eliminated the 25% requirement and since City of Bishop water sources are relatively unaffected by the drought, City of Bishop water users are free to water at any time during the day…”

    Why in the world would Bishop halt the momentum of water conservation with the drought conditions and forecasted changes in climate? Somebody needs a course in hydrogeology and environmental planning!

  3. Rick O'Brien July 8, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    ONLY 4 to 6 weeks for an assessment…that’s gotta be a record. In the mean time those residents can bathe in the Owens River, eat off of paper plates and drink bottled Crystal Geyser water from Olancha. (I’m from the government, I’m here to help)

  4. HighWater July 8, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    Don’t blame the drought. It happened because they shut off everyone’s surface water, and the problem began when they turned the water back on.

  5. Philip Anaya July 8, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    Ok lets not assign responsibility for the difficulties in West Bishop. Lets hope that the Homeowners get some assistance and a resolution to the varied hydrologic / geologic conditions no matter who finds and delivers some relief. After this relief occurs let’s hope into the future, having had a harsh education, that we can affect SCE and DWP to sustainably manage the Chandler Decree flows. If the State of California with Inyo County and LADWP can help this situation that has been going on for three years, then that is appropriate as a first order of business. Meanwhile lets insist on a Subsequent Environmental Impact Report for the proposed new wells B-2 and B-5 in West Bishop.
    Messing and goofing with the aquifer is what we’d be doing without that review.

  6. Sweet Virginia July 8, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    The action taken by the Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act.

    The County has been aware of this problem for quite some time (i.e., well before the 6/28 meeting agenda was posted), and the Board merely adopted a resolution asking the State of California for technical help (i.e., no deadline for taking action was involved).

    Thus, neither of the factual bases for legally adding a post-agenda item existed when the Board of Supervisors added the resolution to its 6/28.

    Although it sounds impressive, merely calling it an urgency item does not make it one.



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