Inyo County Water Department calls plan “conservative”
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) has released its Annual Operations Plan outlining groundwater pumping for the Owens Valley during the 2014-2015 runoff year.
According to the Operations Plan summary, the forecast for runoff to supply the Owens River Basin is only 50 percent of normal. As of April, the overall Eastern Sierra snowpack is estimated to be 30 percent of normal.
Because this is the third consecutive drought year, the DWP has released its pumping plan for a six month period, rather than the full 12 month period. The DWP currently estimates it will pump between 36,920 and 47,930 acre-feet from April to September of 2014.
The Operations Plan also offers a rough pumping estimate of about 65,000 acre-feet for the total 2014-2015 runoff year.
That number is down from last year’s 78,880 acre-feet.
Inyo County Water Department Director Dr. Bob Harrington said that the DWP has offered “a good, conservative plan; it doesn’t increase pumping, even though we’re in a drought, and there’s temptation to pump to make up for lack of surface water.”
A comment letter written by the Water Department to the DWP agreed, stating: “[We] concur that the proposed plan is considerably more conservative than pumping plans developed during the dry years of the early 1990’s.”
Dr. Harrington said that the DWP has said it will fulfill irrigation allotments in the Valley as best it can, “but they do anticipate some shortages,” he said.
Currently, the DWP anticipates providing 44,000 acre-feet to irrigation, as well as 8,100 acre-feet to enhancement/mitigation projects, 19,000 acre-feet to the Lower Owens River Project, and 95,000 acre-feet to Owens Lake (that’s up from last year’s 72,000 acre-feet Owens Lake allotment).
The Water Department previously voiced concern about pumping in sensitive areas in the Valley where that pumping appeared to be negatively affecting baseline vegetation. Dr. Harrington said that in at least one of these areas, the Thibaut-Sawmill well field, the DWP has agreed to reduce pumping. In this case, fewer acre-feet will be supplied to the Black Rock Fish Hatchery. The DWP will pump 4,600 acre-feet this year, as opposed to 12,717 last year.
This agreement is part of a larger Blackrock settlement reached during an Inyo/LA Standing Committee meeting on April 29 (see James’s story on p. 5).
The Water Department will convey its comments regarding the 2014-2015 Operations Plan in person at the next Inyo/LA Technical Group meeting, which must be within 10 days of the release of the pumping plan. However, said Harrington, “our comments were not terribly objecting.”