DWP wells: Battle of the Bs

By Deb Murphy

The 1991 Environmental Impact Report covering “Water from the Owens Valley to Supply the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct” identifies five new Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wells in Bishop. The department began the process for the first two, B-2 north of U.S. Hwy.395 near the Gun Club and B-5 in West Bishop, late last year.

Then all heck broke loose.

Opponents noted the degree of development in the West Bishop area as well as the impact of a dry ditch system on older private wells three years ago. Those factors, plus four years of extraordinary drought followed by a fifth year of below average snow pack forced the issue of a new California Environmental Quality Act analysis.

LADWP proceeded with its draft pre-construction evaluation. Opponents continued hammering for a subsequent CEQA. The situation could be called a stand-off, but neither side is standing down. Review and finalization of the new wells falls to the Technical Group.

The County’s response to LADWP’s draft, filed in late December, also noted the need for a revised drawdown effect analysis in the wells’ area of influence, more monitoring wells and a more complete list of non-LADWP wells in the areas of impact.

A conservative estimate of the development in West Bishop within the area of influence of B-5, based on single-family building permits since 1991, puts the number at 36; 44 private wells were drilled in just the past three years.

The Meadow Creek development added 47 new homes since ‘91, supplied by the Meadow Creek Public Water System. According to LADWP’s analysis, “projected drawdown in the shallow aquifer resulting from six months pumping of B-2 at 3.5 cubic feet per second” would be less than a foot for the development’s water system wells.

LADWP responded to the County’s draft comments in mid-March, justifying a no-CEQA stance by citing the initial ’91 CEQA and existing protocol in the Long Term Water Agreement to “ensure the protection of resources in the Owens Valley including vegetation and non-LADWP-owned wells.” The response gives no indication LADWP intends to do a subsequent CEQA.

LADWP did additional drawdown models in response to County concerns with the initial area of influence analysis. According to the department, “groundwater level fluctuations were generally stable.”

The County requested five pairs of monitoring wells to evaluate impact on both shallow and deep aquifers impacted by B-2 and B-5. LADWP responded with four monitoring wells with “depth and screen interval” to be determined.

The County Water Department is still reviewing LADWP’s response; the next step in the process, according to Bob Harrington, water director, is to compete the pre-construction evaluation and install some monitoring wells.

 

 

 

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One Response to DWP wells: Battle of the Bs

  1. Philip Anaya April 7, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

    A Subsequent EIR is required when a Project that has a Certified EIR or Negative Declaration, when based on substantial evidence in the light of the whole record, one or more of the following has occurred. That list is available at this link .

    http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/SWFacilities/Permitting/ceqa/Documents/EIR/Types.htm#Subsequent

    There have been substantial changes in the conditions, events and new methods to evaluate an Aquifer since 1991. The 1991 EIR is incomplete with regards to impacts and mitigation measures and the DWP’s preconstruction evaluation has not addressed the current environmental issues . It is up to the DWP as the lead agency to require and complete a Subsequent EIR for the proposed new wells B-2 and B-5 and that is definitely a problem as the DWP has a vested interest in not following the requirements very much like a fox in the hen house . Inyo County hopefully is addressing this concern for an adequate and lawful CEQA review and the Board of Supervisors needs our voices and our support in this endeavor to not only protect domestic wells in Inyo County but to also uphold the California Environmental Quality Act.
    The capacity of the Aquifer to provide the 7000 acre feet annually from these 2 proposed new wells B-2 and B-5 and not effect the more numerous domestic wells than in 1991 is yet to be determined and don’t forget that the Tribe with it’s development and growth since 1991 is also a factor. The Impact of domestic wells gone dry from the draw down of the water table by DWP operations and surface flow management is part of a history of this proposal , a substantial change from the 1991 EIR. Before any construction there needs to be the public process in the form of a Subsequent EIR that will identify all of the impacts and offer mitigation measures that are both lacking and nonexistent in the 1991 EIR.

     

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