By Deb Murphy
It’s back. The water table in parts of West Bishop is not just high, it’s popping through the asphalt, turning lawns into bogs and invading garages.
Ron Lawrence on Carol Lane has a pump pulling 2,000 gallons a day out of his yard. A neighbor across the street is waiting for the water to recede so he can fix his irrigation line. A resident on Barlow is worried his home’s foundation is being damaged from the water running close to the surface under his slab and through his garage. Everybody’s worried what this will do to their property values.
If all this sounds familiar, it is. In the spring of 2014, following a winter with little if any water in a ditch system that brings creeks and ponds to homeowners, a winter when older, shallow wells were running dry, the same thing happened. Back then, County Water Department Director Bob Harrington thought one explanation was a perched aquifer: a water body held near the surface by a layer of clay or a big bubble of air. In response to a cry for help from West Bishop resident Todd Vogel, Harrington put his explanation in an e-mail.
Why did this weird aquifer pop up in ’14 and again this spring? Harrington and other residents think it was the waterless winter of 13-14 when residents were encouraged to clean out their ditches and ponds. What they may have ended up doing was removing a natural organic seal that allowed the spring run-off to absorb rapidly into the shallow aquifer. Harrington’s recommendation was to line ponds and ditches and install French drains.
To back track a little farther, during the second year of drought, 2012, the reservoirs at South Lake and Lake Sabrina were dropped to historic lows in compliance with irrigation requirements outlined in the Chandler Decree. That left little water to keep the creeks and ponds flowing through the winter of 2012-13.
Since then, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison have made an effort to keep enough storage in the reservoirs to keep the ditch system at least damp. For whatever reason, the high water tables didn’t rear their little puddles last spring.
Back to the present. The Bishop Creek flows out of SCE’s Plant 6 have consistently exceeded the Chandler mandates, but nobody but Mother Nature can be blamed for that as former SCE employee Burt Almond explained at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Bishop Creek Water Association. According to Almond, SCE was holding flows out of the reservoirs to 12 cfs, the number required to maintain the fisheries. The culprit was the uncontrolled flows out of North Creek. “The run-off is coming like gang busters,” he said. Almond said Lake Sabrina could reach capacity and water in South Lake is to the toe of the dam. “That’s the first time in five years,” he said. All this is good news, if it weren’t for the flooded basements.
The BCWA has encouraged folks to line their ponds. For now, the association’s Rock Baker is trying to balance a nice flow of water in the ditch system with water where nobody wants it. He’s experimented with taking water out of the ditches or asking residents to divert water in their ditches so ponds won’t fill up. Then wait and see if the standing water recedes. One resident ran a submersible pump for 72 hours but the water under his home is still there.
Don Coons suggested, strongly, that LADWP pay for a hydrological study. Another resident pointed out that Harrington’s recommendations should be heeded. Association Chair Gene Coufal recalled hearing of high groundwater issues in West Bishop in the 60’s. After the meeting, lifetime West Bishop resident Daris Moxley said McLaren used to be a swamp. But both areas have been heavily developed.