By Deb Murphy
Friday morning’s Technical Group discussion of the two-month test on Five Bridges’ Well 385 drew a standing-room-only crowd.
Back on November 28, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Board of Commissioners had approved the Initial Study/Negative Declaration with staff plans to flip the switch on the test the following Friday.
The next week, the Inyo Board of Supervisors filed suit and framed a restraining order against the test.
The Tech Group meeting was a little like the showdown at OK Corral with a twist. The group made up of LADWP and Inyo Water Department staff requires a consensus to take action. If one of the two votes no, nothing happens.
Inyo voted no on the test of W385, which LADWP had modified to draw from the deep aquifer with far less output than the unmodified version.
LADWP hydrologist Saeed Jorat started the agenda item with the well’s background. W385 and 386 initially ran in 1987-1988, causing environmental damage to a 300-acre area south of the site. The department tried again in 1993; this time the wells caused a five-foot aquifer drawdown and the wells were shut-off. Efforts to restore the 300 acres were not consistently successful.
In 2014, the well was modified. The proposed two-month test was to determine, or verify, the well’s operation would not do additional damage to the eco-system.
The County’s comments on the Negative Declaration focused on the fact DWP identified the well as new and violations of procedures set up in the 1991 Long Term Water Agreement. Public comment on the document focused on the magnitude of the environmental damage and the fact the mitigation had yet to repair that damage.
Following Jorat’s discussion, County Water Department Director Bob Harrington read a prepared statement repeating the objections raised in the Negative Declaration comments. In essence, the Agreement and Green Book set out procedures for new wells. And, in the Five Bridges area, there is a good chance damage will be done to vegetation if the well is operative. “The County’s position is the well can’t be turned on,” Harrington said.
LADWP staff and attorney conferred, came back and argued. Harrington stuck to his statement. LADWP staff and attorney conferred again—this time arguing that the County worked with the department on developing the monitoring plan. Harrington was asked if the County’s objections were technical or legal. Harrington said they couldn’t be separated, and stuck to the statement.
LADWP’s Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta made a motion: the City and County agree W385’s monitoring plan was developed jointly in conformity with the Long Term Water Agreement.
Harrington didn’t agree and the meeting was adjourned.