Tag Archives: owens lake


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declares state of emergency to address unprecedented snowmelt in the Owens Valley

Posted by Seth Conners


According to a press release from DWP, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a local State of Emergency to protect the lands and communities near the Los Angeles Aqueduct from flooding, as this year’s historic Eastern Sierra snowpack begins to melt into the Owens Valley.

This year’s snowpack in the Eastern Sierra is 241% above normal, and once spring sets in, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) expects the snowmelt to send up to 1 million acre-feet of runoff into the Owens Valley.

This runoff — nearly twice the amount of water Angelenos use in a year — will likely threaten local communities, hydroelectric power plants, and dust mitigation infrastructure in Owens Lake with destructive flooding. Mayor Garcetti’s Emergency Declaration will trigger City rules that enable LADWP to act quickly in response to the threat, and begin the process of requesting assistance from the state and federal governments.

“I am declaring a local State of Emergency today because we have a responsibility to protect Angelenos and the people of the Owens Valley — we must act quickly to address this threat,” said Mayor Garcetti. “I have also requested that Governor Brown help us coordinate our response with state agencies.”

“This emergency reminds us that climate change is not a problem for the distant future — it is already causing harm, and we know there is more to come. That’s why it’s critical for us to continue investing in infrastructure that makes our City more sustainable and resilient, and continue pushing to reduce our carbon emissions,” he added.

Mayor Garcetti is committed to making the City more sustainable, and combating climate change. His administration’s Sustainable City pLAn outlines ambitious goals for water conservation, carbon emission reduction, climate resiliency, and expanding the use of renewable energy. This historic snowpack directly after a historic drought is an example of the extreme climate patterns modeled in many climate studies.

Today’s Emergency Proclamation will help LADWP respond to the immediate threat of flooding in the Owens Valley by triggering special City rules that enable the utility to contract for the goods and services it needs more quickly. Since it is intended to last longer than seven days, the declaration requires approval by the City Council.

LADWP is already taking steps to prepare for this year’s snowmelt, and Mayor Garcetti’s declaration will enable the utility to act more quickly. For example, the agency is spreading water along the length of the L.A. Aqueduct system — so that the excess water can be used to replenish underground aquifers — and maximizing flows throughout the system, using more Aqueduct water to supply Los Angeles. It is also shoring up existing flood control infrastructure and emptying reservoirs along the Aqueduct to prepare for the snowmelt and protect its hydroelectric power plants and critical endangered species habitat from flooding.

In Owens Lake where the City has spent more than $1 billion on dust mitigation over the last two decades, LADWP is building new infrastructure to guide the flow of excess runoff away from its dust control operations and prevent them from destruction.

“Public safety is among our core values as an organization,” said LADWP General Manager David H. Wright. “LADWP has made a commitment to the residents of the Owens Valley to control dust emissions that can be harmful to breathe, and have spent over $1 billion on infrastructure to mitigate this dust. As storm waters threaten to destroy much of this investment, we must honor our commitment to the residents of the Owens Valley to reduce this form of air pollution, just like we honor our commitments to rate payers in the L.A. Basin. This Declaration by Mayor Garcetti today allows us to bypass lengthy supply procurement regulations to ensure that we can immediately continue to keep particulate matter from being blown off the dry lake playa during periods of high winds.”

BLM hosting Alabama Hills Hikes

BLM to Host Interpretive Hikes in the Alabama Hills this January

BISHOP, Calif. – The Bureau of Land Management will host interpretive hikes in the Alabama Hills to discuss film history and view scenic arches as a part of our ‘Discover the Desert’ initiative.

A “Film History in the Alabama Hills” hike will be held Saturday, Jan. 2, and an “Explore the Arches” hike will be held Sunday, Jan. 3. Participants should meet at 10 a.m. at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, at the corner of Highway 395 and State Route 136 in Lone Pine, to carpool to the site. The driving time is about 10 minutes. Each hiker should carry at least one quart of water and dress in layered clothing for a range of temperatures and windy conditions.

“There have been more than 400 movies and countless commercials filmed in the Alabama Hills. On the film history hike, you will hear interesting and amusing stories about numerous productions as you explore the camera locations. This walk covers an area of Movie Flat that includes locations from memorable films such as “Gunga Din,” “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “Tremors” and “Django Unchained,’” said Dave Kirk, Alabama Hills steward for the BLM’s Bishop Field Office. The film history hike will take 1 to 1½ hours and is a relatively easy walk covering less than a mile.

“On the arches hike, you can learn about the geologic processes that shaped the hills. The hike includes Mobius, Heart, and Eye of the Alabama arches. You’ll also discover that there’s more to the Alabama Hills than just Movie Flat! The hike includes scenic vistas of the Sierra, Inyo Mountains and Owens Lake, plus a visit to a riparian zone in the heart of the hills,” Kirk said. The arches hike will take 2 ½ to three hours and requires a good fitness level. The hike is a loop about 3.5 miles in distance with some moderately strenuous sections. The entire hike is on trail and/or multi-use routes. Appropriate footwear is required.

For more information on interpretative hikes in the Alabama Hills, contact Dave Kirk via email at dmkirk@blm.gov, or the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center at (760) 876-6222.

cover photo by Gary Young

lone pines alabama hills, blm bishop field office, owens lake, alabama hills movie flat, inyo county hiking

DWP using new technology to study groundwater

LADWP conducting Airborne Survey at Owens Lake

Submitted by Amanda Parsons, LADWP spokesperson


Bishop, CA – Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) hydrologists are utilizing Airborne Electromagnetic Surveying in a pilot study Saturday, July 25, Sunday, July 26 and Monday, July 27 at Owens Lake near Highway 395 to better understand the groundwater basin beneath the lakebed and protect habitat on the surface during the implementation of the Master Project.

The Airborne Electromagnetic Survey consists of state-of-the-art measuring equipment, resembling a webbed oval dangling 100 feet below a helicopter, sending radio signals into the ground then measuring the returned signal to determine the geological materials. The practice is completely nonintrusive to the landscape and provides scientists with a clearer picture than previously-used underground mapping methods. Traditional underground mapping consists of drilling a series of test holes – up to 1,500 feet deep and up to several  miles apart – across the desired area’s surface, taking samples from deep inside the holes and testing them for a “best guess” look at what lies beneath the surface.

“The data gathered from this pilot study will be useful as we work to better model the Owens Lake groundwater as part of the Master Project,” Eastern Sierra Hydrologist and Project Manager Saeed Jorat, Ph.D. said. “By protecting the landscape while gathering this data, we ensure the safety of the habitat and the species residing there in a cost effective manner.”

Data gathered from the study will be used by LADWP to map the location of bedrock, fault lines and groundwater depth. This information will assist the Department as it works to model the Owens Lake Master Project and protect resources that utilize groundwater in the area – private wells, vegetation and habitat – while also preventing potential land subsidence.

If the pilot study goes well, LADWP will utilize the new technique for future projects in the Eastern Sierra region.

Native American Helicopters LLC (NAH) will be conducting the flights using an Astar 350FX2 helicopter. The helicopter will fly parallel to Highway 395 over the North East corner of Owens Lake for a three day period from approximately 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The equipment will be approximately 100 feet above the surface while in flight. During that time, the helicopter will not fly over the Highway, power lines and other structures so as to protect the safety of all involved during the operation.

Owens Lake Helicopter
Native American LLC helicopter flying the SkyTEM system to obtain geological measurements for LADWP over Owens Lake on July 26, 2015. (Photo by LADWP)
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Iranian Scientist Visit Owens Lake

Iranian Scientists Visit Owens Lake

Information provided by the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. July 13, 2015; Keeler, California

A State Department-sponsored tour brought a delegation of twelve scientists to the US from Iran to consult with their counterparts on issues related to water shortages in the southwest US. Researchers from Iranian universities with backgrounds in civil engineering, hydrology, geochemistry and environmental sciences were hosted by staff from the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and LA Department of Water and Power for a tour and workshop at Owens Lake.
Water that once flowed to Lake Urmia in Iran has been diverted to support agriculture and urban populations that have a water demand larger than can be sustained by the available resources. This has caused the drying up of Lake Urmia, a terminal lake with no outlet that once covered 2,000 square miles. It now contains only about 5% of its former volume. Like Owens Lake, the lake bed is exposed to wind erosion causing enormous dust storms.
Lake Urmia dust storms have caused extremely high air pollution levels affecting the health of over 65 million people. The Iranian scientists were highly impressed with the air district’s automated air monitoring instruments and modeling system at Owens Lake, which has been acknowledged by researchers as the most advanced system used anywhere in the world. They were also very interested in DWP’s dust control measures at Owens Lake, because some of these methods could be utilized at Lake Urmia. Dust mitigation efforts at Owens Lake have been implemented over the last 15 years and are now about 95% complete, while dust control efforts at Lake Urmia have not been initiated.
Air Pollution Control Officer, Phill Kiddoo said, “At almost 20 times the size of Owens Lake, the health risk associated with wind-blown dust from the recently dried Lake Urmia, poses a significant health risk to millions of Iranians.  Sharing the information and knowledge gained from decades of research, air quality monitoring and operation of the District’s Owens Lake Dust Identification Program in conjunction with showing DWP’s successful dust control projects, provided powerful insight to the visiting scientists who are seeking feasible solutions to solve similar water shortage and dust problems at Lake Urmia.”

To help them understand the water shortage problems in the US, the Iranian delegation also met with experts at the Salton Sea, Mono Lake, and the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Most of them were making their first trip to the US. While in the Eastern Sierra they stayed three nights in Bishop for the tour that took place in late June.

Barbieri Keeler Monitors
Nik Barbieri explains the operation of the air district’s Owens Lake dust monitoring program to the visiting Iranian scientists.
Gillies at Keeler Dunes
Dr. Jack Gillies from the Desert Research Institute describes how dust from the Keeler Dunes is controlled using straw bales to reduce the wind until planted native shrubs reach maturity.
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