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.