According to the President of the Bishop Creek Water Association, Southern California Edison has refused to hold back water in the upper lakes this summer because the Department of Water and Power won’t give Edison a letter saying it’s okay to do so.
President Steve Stevens had told us that the Water Association Board had voted to send a letter to Edison requesting that in this third dry year, Edison should slowly release water down Bishop Creek so that ditches and ponds below would not dry up this year like they did last year. This management regime would also have kept more water in Lake Sabrina and South Lake.
Stevens said Edison wrote back that they need written authorization to reduce flows of Bishop Creek since there are court documents that lay out required flows. Stevens said DWP won’t give that authorization.
DWP had earlier hinted at possible cooperation to help West Bishop, but the DWP members on the Water Association Board abstained from the vote to ask Edison to hold back water this year, and now, according to Mr. Stevens, DWP has flatly refused to help.
In early May, Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta said that LA was willing to enter into a “dialogue on Bishop Creek flows.” He said DWP was concerned about irrigation requirements under the Long Term Water Agreement. He said the Inyo Supervisors and DWP, acting through the Standing Committee, would have to approve any reductions in irrigation water or water for mitigation projects if there are impacts from a reduction in Bishop Creek flows.
Mr. Stevens said that DWP had agreed to hold back water 17 times in the past, due to dry conditions. This year, he said, if water were held back, DWP lessees would still get what they need.
Meanwhile, as the days go by and water rushes down the creek, the Owens Valley Committee sent a letter to the Inyo-LA Technical Group to ask that they address the Bishop Creek Water management situation under the Inyo-LA Water Agreement. Asked about that, Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington said he is still “kicking that around.” He called it a complicated jurisdictional situation since flows are governed by court decrees. Harrington added that it seemed to him DWP had been saying that as a member of the Bishop Creek Water Association DWP was agreeable to holding water back in the reservoirs. Apparently not. We did place a call and an email to DWP Manager Yannotta but have not heard back.
The West Bishop people whose wells are drying up and who now deal with flooding from high creek flows are constituents of County Supervisors. Supervisors Linda Arcularius and Rick Pucci have attended Water Association meetings, but so far no one – not Inyo County, Edison, the Water Association and primarily DWP – have acted to help what will surely be a very dry late summer and fall for the residents.