New Owens Valley Committee Board Investigates Lower Owens River Project (Press Release)
Owens Valley Committee (OVC) is watching to ensure the goals of the Inyo/LA Water Agreement and its numerous mitigation projects are met. OVC members, including new Board President Mary Roper, convened a study session regarding the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) on the afternoon of March 27, 2014, which was hosted by Inyo County Water Department. Staff of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) were on hand to answer questions, and representatives from Sierra Club and California Department of Fish and Wildlife joined the group. These parties are signatory to the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a companion to the Water Agreement which bolsters environmental protection for Owens Valley,
A focus of this gathering was to better understand the LORP pumpback station. The pumpback station is a large facility near the mouth of the river, south of Lone Pine, that captures LORP flows and controls where the water goes next. The facility includes: a large forebay; weirs; a big metal shed that houses pumps; power lines; and related infrastructure. Water arriving at the facility may be pumped up to the Los Angeles Aqueduct or into pipes supplying the Owens Lake dust control areas. Any water in excess of the pumps’ capacity flows through the weirs and down to the delta, the place where river water would naturally enter the lake. The maximum amount of LORP water LADWP is permitted to pump from the forebay is 50 cubic feet per second. This is equivalent to 36,200 acre-feet per year, or three times the amount of water needed to fill South Lake!
The group also stopped near “the islands” reach of the LORP, north of Lone Pine and below the Owens Valley Fault. Here, for a distance of about three miles, there is no obvious river channel, and LORP water spreads over the land surface, giving rise to thickets of tules (bulrushes), which inhibit access for people and livestock.
The afternoon was informative, but many questions remain. For example, locations where water quality is a concern, and how flow manipulations might help, have not yet been addressed. The sun set all too soon, leaving unanswered questions and unvisited sites for another day in the long term process of adaptively managing this riparian resource.
This will be the first of several OVC LORP study sessions, with the ultimate goal being the best outcome for Owens Valley.
OVC members and others at the LORP pumpback facility. From left to right: Sally Manning, Nancy Masters, Mary Roper, Rose Masters (kneeling), Nina Weisman, Mark Bagley (Sierra Club and OVC), and Larry Freilich (Inyo County Water Department). (Photo by Philip Anaya)