Letter to the editor: step up to the plate of water management

soforkbishopcrk(This is a letter written by the Owens Valley Committee to the Inyo-LA Technical Group by OVC VP, Daniel Pritchett)

Inyo-LA Technical Group

C/O Bob Harrington

Inyo County Water Department

PO Box 337

Independence, CA 93526

C/O James Yannotta

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

300 Mandich St.

Bishop, ca 93514

Dear Technical Group members:

The OVC calls your attention[1] to a water management problem affecting much of the Bishop area and many members of the Bishop Creek Water Association.

During the 2013 runoff year the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power unilaterally decided to change its longstanding dry-year water management practice on the Bishop cone. According to the Inyo Register (Aug 2, 2013), DWP ceased granting “variances on the Chandler Decree” to Southern California Edison (SCE). Without a variance, SCE was unable to store water in South Lake and Lake Sabrina during peak runoff for release later in the season. This failure to store water led to the unprecedented drying of ditches late in the 2013 irrigation season in the Bishop area. The subsequent drying of numerous residential wells was attributed by the Inyo County Water Department to lack of recharge, due largely to dry ditches. Water Department data also showed the problem was exacerbated by increased pumping from DWP wells after their enlargement in 2000.

At the Bishop Creek Water Association (BCWA) meeting of June 3, 2014 it was stated that ditches will again dry late in the irrigation season unless water is stored immediately. It was also disclosed that once again, DWP is not granting a variance to SCE, thus precluding storage of water. At the same BCWA meeting the hydrological havoc (now including flooded basements and wellheads, in addition to dry wells) currently experienced in southwest Bishop was attributed directly to last year’s ditch dessication followed by this spring’s re-saturation. Technical Group members from both DWP and Inyo County participated in this BCWA meeting and did not challenge this attribution.

Attainment of the goals of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement requires the Technical Group to modify current management to avoid a recurrence of last year’s ditch-drying. The short term solution, as outlined at the BCWA meeting, would be to immediately give SCE permission to store water at Lake Sabrina and South Lake for release later in the year to augment base flows. The longer term solution would be devising a surface and groundwater management strategy to maintain at least minimal ditch flows independent of annual variation in runoff.

In addition to modifying management, we request the Technical Group to determine, as soon as possible, appropriate mitigation for the significant impacts which have already occurred to private entities and irrigated lands in the Bishop area.



Daniel Pritchett

Vice President, Owens Valley Committee


[1]    City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and County of Inyo 1991. Response to comments on September 1990 draft environmental impact report. Vol. I. pg 2-29:

“However should it be believed that a significant effect on the environment (as defined under CEQA) has or will occur due to the project, any person may bring the matter to the attention of Los Angeles or Inyo County and/or employ any other available legal right or remedy, including CEQA.”


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7 Responses to Letter to the editor: step up to the plate of water management

  1. Bob Brown June 10, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    We have to be very weary when quoting past stories in the Inyo Register as fact. The Inyo Register has made many mistakes while covering this story. “”According to the Inyo Register (Aug 2, 2013), DWP ceased granting “variances on the Chandler Decree” to Southern California Edison (SCE).” Or did they cease granting variances to the carryover provision within the Sales Agreement? If it was indeed the Chandler Decree, LADWP would have seemed to assumed authority. If it was the Sales Agreement, LADWP was within their right. While I realize this doesn’t matter in resolving the current issues, it does matter in laying the proper factual foundation for people trying to understand and fix the situation. If people think SCE has legal “control” over the flows as stated in this past article, that is grossly different than the fact that SCE only has physical control over the reservoir valves. The flows are dictated by others. It is the obligation of the Sierra Wave and the Inyo Register to get the facts straight.

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

      Dear Bob, As reporters we quote the primary people involved in the story since the true situation unfolding has everything to do with how these people perceive it. The fact is, DWP could give SCE the go-ahead any time they want. They apparently don’t want to. Benett Kessler

  2. Philip Anaya June 10, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Last year there was neither sufficent snowpack nor storage in South and Sabrina to provide the required Chandler Decree flows that LADWP has the legal right to. In previous years when there was drought and insufficent runoff for the required Chandler Decree flows SCE and DWP managed the runoff to keep water in the Lakes, in the ditch systems of West Bishop and there were no domestic wells going dry and there were no problems as this year with the rewatering of the ditches.
    It is perplexing and absolutely outrageous that the DWP and SCE have not found a way to resolve any and all issues and THEY are repeating last years management. The SCE and the DWP are by now fully aware of the consequences of last years Bishop Creeks runoff management. The inability to resolve whatever issues indictes that DWP and SCE do not care if the ditches go dry. They do not care if more domestic wells go dry. They do not care if there is flooding and contamination of people’s wells next spring. They do not care about the economical and environmental damage that they have contributed to . They do not care about the welfare of people or this Valley , because if they did then they would have resolved this back in October, November ,December 2013 when it was brought to their attention and with the horror of the first domestic wells going dry.
    DWP and SCE have spent more time and effort finding ways to not resolve the issues than they have in finding a way to agree to save water in the South and Sabrina and maintain the ditches and the Aquifer so that there are no more domestic wells going dry. At what point does Inyo County get involved and seek injunctive relief in Court to help SCE and DWP to get back to their past management practices . There have been sufficent requests made to DWP and SCE all the way back to Sept 2013 and every month since for cooperative management of the runoff . One domestic well going dry from DWP SCE operations is one too many let alone more than 20 or 30 . The ditches are currently running high . Bishop Creek is running at 108 cfs today . The flow through from the ditches and the Leaseholders Lands is going into the Aqueduct . The Aquifer might be healthy for the time being but expect water tables to retreat and the ditches to go dry again by August or September. Thank you DWP and SCE ………….in advance

    • Bob June 11, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      And there will be less water this year..

      As population increases Southern California will demand more and more water. So please conserve all you can now so others can use it later.

    • Bob Brown June 13, 2014 at 8:02 am #

      Mr. Anaya,

      Can you please explain why you think SCE is responsible for the issues below Plant 6? Water management plans below Plant 6 are the responsibility of the stakeholders below Plant 6, i.e. not SCE. SCE has made it clear they will provide whatever is agreed upon by stakeholders. Why do you continue to act as though SCE has the power to change things outside of their jurisdiction? You have just as much right to to go to the Federal Court and plea for change. It seems lazy on your part to assume SCE should take that initiative.

      • Benett Kessler June 13, 2014 at 8:39 am #

        Not sure where you get that Mr. Anaya wants Edison to change water management. He clearly suggested DWP do it since they have numerous times in the past. Benett Kessler

      • Phiilip Anaya June 13, 2014 at 10:53 am #

        Fair question Mr. Brown.

        As Edison has Operations on Bishop Creek and as they have in the past done the cooperative management with DWP of the Bishop Creek surface flows they have to have concerns where the water goes after Plant 6. SCE controls the actual release of water from South and Sabrina and the change to past practice for SCE is that they now require a written deal with DWP. Both SCE and DWP have chosen to have their legal departments now involved, an unwieldy impediment to getting a cooperative agreement between the parties. It takes two to tango and both parties need to immediately implement operations into the historic sustainable management practices and screw the lawyers.
        Also… SCE transfers Bishop Creek Flows through pipelines between it’s Power Plants. There is also water releases flowing in the creek bed. However between plant 5 and 6 SCE is not required to release water into the creek bed itself and there is hardly a flow for fish and for any stauration into the Aquifer in this 1 1/2 mile section. The only time that this section of Bishop Creek receives any sustainable flow is when there is either a release by SCE or the Flows overflow the spillway of the Plant 5 containment pool. Chandler and the DWP does not restrict SCE from watering Bishop Creek between 5 and 6. SCE somehow was not required in their last permit /license to release water in this section.
        A consistant minimal 5-10 cfs release would benefit the Aquifer and the Fish and would leave no question that SCE is concerned about the environment. The Bishop Creek biotic community and domestic wells in West Bishop. Earlier this summer I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the adequete flow ( maybe 25cfs) in the Creek above plant 5 coming into the containment pool and the dribble going back into the creek below the dam at Plant 5. I did leave a message with SCE management with a complaint ,never received a return phone call but there was a positive in that by that evening there was some flow coming down the creek into 6 which proves that SCE is responsive at the local level and they hear and respond when they hear the words So Cal Edison.


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