By Deb Murphy
Some Technical Group meetings are short and dry; Thursday morning’s wasn’t either.
All the big guns stepped up in strong opposition to two new wells in Bishop, B-2 near the Gun Club and B-5 in West Bishop, south of Schober Lane. The agenda item was “consideration of a pre-construction evaluation report” on the two wells, a formal acknowledgement by both entities, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Inyo County, that the joint-report was completed. But for those in attendance, it was a step in the wrong direction, at least until pumping impacts in the valley are fully mitigated and current environmental studies are done..
The wells are two of 15 approved in the Long Term Water Agreement. The department has indicated the water will be used for lessee’s irrigation, allowing surface water to head to Los Angeles.
Harry Williams, Sally Manning, Daris Moxley, Mark Bagley and Phil Anaya brought up a range of issues:
Revegetation projects have had a low rate of success; it’s best to avoid the need for mitigation by drilling no new wells.
Rare plant populations in the valley are disappearing without adequate monitoring.
The environmental documents on the wells were done in 1991; conditions have changed which should trigger a subsequent environmental study before the wells are drilled.
With the well contractor waiting in the wings, the issue of new wells should be brought before the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.
The mapping of private wells in the area is neither current nor accurate. Existing production wells in West Bishop have impacted private wells. The project is “not ready for prime time” and should be postponed with all the West Bishop private wells identified.
Both LADWP and the County passed the evaluation report, with one edit: clarification that the mapping of private wells was based only on those with well logs recorded with the Department of Water Resources.
The pre-construction evaluation of a replacement well, W243 in Laws, didn’t go over any better.
Following the meeting, County Water Department Director Bob Harrington explained part of the negotiations of the Long Term Water Agreement gave LADWP the right to construct new wells. “The agreement doesn’t give the County much ability to stop,” he said. “Where we have teeth is in how those wells are operated.”
On a brighter note, LADWP’s Eric Tillemans went through current precip numbers. The average measurement of snow courses and snow pillows is 228 percent of normal; measurements up and down the watershed exceed 100 percent of normal for the season. Precipitation in the valley is 100 percent of normal for the entire season and 200 percent of normal in Big Pine and Independence. The department has begun spreading water at Laws, west of U.S. Highway 395 in Big Pine, at Oak, Sawmill and Division creeks.
“We’ll spread where we can get the best impact in the valley,” said Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta, “in Long Valley, Laws and north of Tinnemaha. We’ll see a lot of recharge.”