Most of the Department of Water and Power groundwater pumping in Inyo County goes to the two fish hatcheries and then ends up in the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The Owens Valley Committee sued Fish and Game for failure to examine pumping impacts related to the operation of its hatcheries. Now, the two sides have reached a settlement which would limit pumping at Black Rock Hatchery and look for ways to improve the groundwater tables around Fish Springs Hatchery.
The Owens Valley Committee challenged Fish and Game’s 2010 Environmental Impact Report for its statewide hatcheries. The OVC points to the fact that pumps have dried up springs that used to serve the hatcheries and that the water ends up in the aqueduct.
In 1970, DWP completed the second aqueduct and began pumping the underground to fill it. That’s when the large hatchery springs dried up. DWP pumped 13,000 acre feet around Black Rock. The original springs supplied 8,000 acre feet to the hatchery. DWP pumped around 24,000 acre feet at Fish Springs. The original springs provided 16,400 acre feet. So, in a round about way, a lot more pumped water ended up in the aqueduct.
The lawsuit settlement agreement calls for Fish and Game to identify a pumping limit of 8,000 acre feet per year at Black Rock. There will be no reduction in fish. DWP, which leases the hatchery and provides water to Fish and Game, will have to agree.
As for the Fish Springs Hatchery, President of the OVC, Mark Bagley, said both sides will determine damage done in the Big Pine well field near the hatchery and determine if water leaving the hatchery could go into the well field to improve conditions. While this work goes on, OVC will not seek to restrict the pumping of 25,000 acre feet per year for Fish Springs.