LADWP backs off the Bishop Cone, accusations fly
Maybe someone wasn’t paying attention or was afraid to admit defeat, but the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is taking its ball and going home because, it says, Inyo County doesn’t want to play by the rules. The county says it doesn’t know what the water giant is talking about.
For some time, LADWP has said publicly that it wants to drill two new wells in the Bishop Cone (the greater Bishop area). LADWP says that the water from the new wells would be spread into nearby fields for irrigation, and eventually run back into the aquifer, minus evapotranspiration.
However, in an unexpected reversal, the agency announced in a press release on July 3 that it will not be pursuing the project, citing Inyo County’s refusal to comply with the procedures laid out in the Inyo/Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA). The agreement governs how LADWP is supposed to conduct itself in Inyo County.
The wells would have been in accordance with the 1940 Hillside Decree, which states that LADWP does not have “any right to pump or extract waters underlying the Bishop Cone for the purpose of taking, transporting or carrying the same outside the Bishop Cone.”
If LADWP had gotten what it wanted, the water would have been pumped from two wells, B2 near the Bishop Gun Club, and B5 west of the Bishop Country Club and golf course. Once extracted, the water would be used by LADWP lessees to irrigate their fields. The wells would draw from the groundwater aquifer but ultimately allow the extracted water to dribble down through the soil in lessee grazing fields and back into the aquifer. Surface water, such as the Owens River, would continue to flow toward thirsty Los Angeles.
An environmental study was performed for 15 potential wells, including B2 and B5, in 1991. Inyo County wanted current environmental data on the project, in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, or it wasn’t going to grant a permit for the drilling of the wells.