The Bishop Creek Water Association Board recently voted to send a letter to Southern California Edison asking for modification of Bishop Creek flows to keep water in the upper lakes and water flowing down the creek as long as possible this summer.
The letter, signed by Water Association President Steve Stevens, points to the “very severe drought” and projections that runoff will peak in late June or early July and then plummet to base flows within about two weeks from then. The letter says, “With current operations, we are estimating that storage in SCE reservoirs will be essentially zero at that time, leaving the members of the Water Association with only the base flow at an amount that is inadequate to meet even minimum flows from about August 1st through the end of the irrigation season.”
The letter also points to court decrees from the 20s and 30s that spell out conditions beyond Edison’s control that would allow for modification of the normal runoff flow schedules. According to the letter, the Water Association Board “has found the current severe drought to qualify as being a cause beyond Edison’s control and allows for the modification of the normal Bishop Creek flow schedule.”
Reports indicated that the two Department of Water and Power representatives on the Bishop Creek Water Association Board abstained from the vote to send the letter to Edison. So where does DWP stand in all of this? The answer is murky. DWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta told Sierra Wave Media that he is aware of the Water Association request to adjust flows in Bishop Creek “in accordance with the modified flow provision language prescribed in the Chandler Decree.” He said, LADWP shares the concerns that have been expressed about low flows in Bishop Creek and the low levels of Sabrina and South Lakes “that are the result of three unprecedented drought years in a row.”
Yannotta said LADWP is willing to continue to explore ways to “modify flows in Bishop Creek as long as all legal requirements are followed and LADWP’s ability to meet its Owens Valley obligations and water supply needs are met.” Yannotta named a laundry list of water needs – irrigation and stock water, flows for the Bishop Paiute Tribe, the Lower Owens River Project, Owens Lake dust mitigation, fish and wildlife needs and numerous Owens Valley enhancement projects.
Under the Water Association’s request, LADWP would get all the water it’s entitled to but in a more managed and slower flow regime. There has been no response yet from Edison in reply to the Water Association’s letter.