Inyo County Supervisors amend Emergency Proclamation with ongoing support for runoff damage

By on July 1, 2017

Inyo County Supervisors adopted an amended version of their March 28 proclamation regarding flooding and widespread damage to roads and other infrastructure earlier this week in an effort to shore up the county’s ongoing emergency response. In acknowledging this year’s historic Eastern Sierra runoff — the “Here It Comes” emergency – Inyo County along with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, local Native American Tribes and multiple other allied agencies moved from the pre-planning and preparedness stage to an active response phase.

The near-record precipitation this past winter has mobilized a cooperative working effort among first responders and other crews to plan for, and now respond to, emergencies and potential disasters. Since May 16, run-off conditions have now closed eight Inyo County roads, destroyed the Pine Creek Bridge, caused the relocation of vault toilets and impacted camp sites at the Pleasant Valley Campground, and begun to undermine the Bishop Creek bypass structure essential for diverting flood waters around the city of Bishop. Some two weeks ago a bridge on North Valley Round Road at the Pine Creek Crossing was completely destroyed and will cost an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million to repair. County road crews are working to save Round Valley’s Lower Rock Creek Bridge.

Runoff damage in the past week has included flooding at Aberdeen Resort and flooding and the temporary evacuation of Goodale Creek Campground; the loss of a culvert in the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 395 south of Independence; the need to cut a 20-foot-long, six-foot-deep trench along the western end of Dixon Lane to prevent waters from breaking over a dyke only a half-mile from residential areas; and the displacement of rocks helping to retain the Bishop Creek Bypass, which required the immediate response of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) crews to prevent a catastrophic flood. Southern California Edison (SCE) reported that in the higher elevations that reservoirs are close to spilling, according to County Administrative Officer/Emergency Services Director Kevin Carunchio. SCE hopes to utilize controlled releases to avoid that scenario.

“Once the reservoirs spill, we will have even less ability to control the flows down Bishop Creek,” Carunchio said.

In adopting the amended version of their March 28 proclamation Inyo County’s Supervisors have now initiated a process to help provide ongoing financial and administrative support for on-the-ground response and mitigation efforts, the latter of which may take years to complete. Because of the proclamation, the aid is extended to allied agencies through the Inyo County Office of Emergency Services (OES). Inyo County’s Supervisors expressed their appreciation to all crews working around the clock to respond to emergencies and head off potential disasters.

“During an emergency, there’s no finer moment in our county in terms of people and particularly agencies pulling together,” said Carunchio. “We’ve been in a pre-planning phase since March. The ‘Here it Comes’ Emergency is ‘Here It Is’ right now, and agency siloes are breaking down. DWP received kudos from Caltrans for identifying and responding so quickly to assist Caltrans in the repairs on U.S. 395. DWP’s response on Friday to pull all kinds of crews and resources to take care of the Diversion Structure on Bishop Creek shows the Department is taking this very seriously and everyone’s just pulling together.”

Inyo County’s OES oversees the use of state resources, including CalFire crews, in the county. The county called upon CalFire crews last week when flood waters threatened to inundate Cardinal Village Resort in Bishop Creek Canyon.

Sheriff Bill Lutze told the Board of Supervisors that CalFire crews worked for a day and a half to hold back the water by placing approximately 10,000 sand bags. Cardinal Village is not out of the woods yet, he said, but “those inmate crews virtually saved Cardinal Village. If it hadn’t been for them we’d have lost it.”

The County purchased another 20,000 sand bags this week to augment the 20,000 purchased in preparation for the spring runoff. These bags are given away through local fire departments.

Inyo County is asking the public to report flooding they witness by calling the Sheriff’s Office at (760) 878-0383. They ask that callers be prepared to tell the Sheriff’s Dispatcher the exact location of the flooding and if the water threatens structures, animals, land, or roadways. If water threatens human life – dial 911.

Carunchio offered a strong word of caution for the public. “While things are looking good right now, nobody’s out of the woods,” he said. “Any resident or business owner should recognize that the system is at or above capacity right now and they need to take immediate action if they haven’t the last three months to protect their lives and property.”