The County of Inyo, with assistance from the California Department of Water Resources, is taking major steps to address a situation plaguing West Bishop in the form of wildly fluctuating hydrological conditions.
Responding to a request from the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, two experts with the CDWR arrived in Bishop this week to assess the situation first-hand and do their own analysis. Dr. Bob Harrington, director of the Inyo County Water Department, said technical staff with the Water Department and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were on hand to provide assistance and data that the two departments have
collected related to the problem.
CDWR staff visited problem areas to examine groundwater conditions and the problems that are occurring with public and private property due to the conditions.
According to Harrington, CDWR staff will provide their written assessment of the problem and any recommendations they have in four to six weeks.
Growing concern over the situation prompted Dr. Harrington and Inyo County Emergency Management Specialist Kelley Williams to get in touch with the California Office of Emergency Services on Wednesday, June 22.
State and county officials held a conference call Thursday, June 23 to discuss a possible request for state assistance. On Friday, June 24, the County decided to amend its existing resolution proclaiming a Local Drought Emergency, to include the request for access to state resources and experts in analyzing the West Bishop situation and making mitigation recommendations.
That amended resolution was added Tuesday, June 28 to that day’s Board of Supervisors agenda as an urgency item and was adopted unanimously. County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said the County hopes CalOES will accept the
amended resolution but noted the Board may be asked to proclaim the West Bishop water table problem a new, separate local disaster.
About 100 homes are thought to be impacted or threatened. While the drought is the most likely culprit, Carunchio said the County wants the California Department of Water Resources to make the determination as to the cause and what can be done to remedy the situation.
While the determination of cause is pending, it is known that hydrological conditions in West Bishop first began fluctuating in 2013 as a result of lower-than-normal releases of water to Bishop Creek in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record for California.
When water was returned to ditches and ponds that had been dried the prior year, some homeowners experienced problems due to unusually high groundwater levels.
These effects have worsened this year.
Public Works Director Clint Quilter told the Board of Supervisors that in addition to the damage happening to private property, his crews are starting to see depressions develop over underground utilities.
He said the problem can be fixed, but not until they know exactly where the water is coming from and where it is going.