The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s intent to put in three new production wells and replace an 87-year old well in Laws did not go over well at Monday evening’s Inyo County Water Commission meeting.
The strongest reaction came from Commissioner Craig Patten. Considering the drought, “we’re playing with fire,” Patten said. “We have to be ready as a county to pull the trigger.”
Teri Red Owl also had an issue with the timing of the proposal, especially in the face of new vegetation monitoring procedures currently being developed as part of the Blackrock 94 settlement.
Two of the new wells are in Bishop, one south of Schober Lane, the other east of the Gun Club north of Bishop. The third new well is proposed for Big Pine in Bell Canyon to supply water to the Big Pine Improved Ditch System. The two Bishop wells are among 15 sites included in the 1991 Environmental Impact Report. The Big Pine well would require a California Environmental Quality Act review, according to County Water Department Director Bob Harrington.
While construction was initially slated for next month in a letter from LADWP dated in early March, Harrington said the revised construction date was moved to November.
Harrington outlined procedures and past issues relating to new production wells. The Long Term Water Agreement established the procedures, starting with a pre-construction evaluation done by the Technical Group made up of Inyo County and LADWP staff. That evaluation would cover monitoring wells and an assessment of potential environmental effects.
Previous new or replacement well constructions have unearthed disagreements between the County and the City, some of which stem from unclear language in the agreement and the Green Book, basically the users’ manual for the LTWA and a document slated for review.
One significant disagreement is LADWP’s position that the Technical Group is responsible for the pre-construction evaluation, “allowing the group any decision making authority over whether a new well can be constructed is an imposition on their water rights,” Harrington’s presentation stated. Each new well proposal and pre-construction evaluation has been worked out on a “case by case” basis, Harrington said.
While LADWP’s proposal doesn’t indicate the specific use of the wells in Bishop, Sally Manning and Daris Moxley pointed out there were no irrigation requirements close to the B-2 well, near the Gun Club and north of U.S. Hwy. 395 and the groundwater would be pumped into the C-Drain and end up in the Aqueduct.
It was also pointed out that a new well, included in the 1991 EIR and drilled in the early 2000s looked problematic for Tribal water sources after a three-week test and had not been operative since.
“This is pretty basic stuff,” said Commission Chair Mike Prather. “We want no more impacts (from groundwater pumping). We still have work to do. (This valley) is not ‘pristine’ yet.”