View Full Version : Public Access to Haiwee Reservoir to close Aug. 1

07-27-2005, 02:12 PM
Ridgecrest Daily Independent

Public Access to Haiwee Reservoir to close Aug. 1

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 1:02 PM PDT

John V. Ciani/jciani@ridgecrestca.com

Beginning Aug. 1, the Haiwee Reservoir will be closed to the public, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced Thursday.

Because of its close proximity to local area, the reservoir has been a favorite fishing and recreation spot for Indian Wells Valley residents. Haiwee is located approximately 35 miles north of Ridgecrest just off Highway 395.

LADWP officials said work crews will post "No Trespassing" signs, close the parking lot, and conduct additional patrols of the reservoir to ensure the public's compliance.

The closure is the result of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which required drinking-water systems to conduct vulnerability assessments.

A security assessment conducted by consultants for LADWP following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks concluded that the reservoir complex is vulnerable to outside attack because of its accessibility.
"The LADWP must take seriously any potential threats to the safety of the city of Los Angeles' water supply," said Aqueduct Manager Gene Coufal. "We know that this displeases those who enjoyed fishing at Haiwee Reservoir."

He said fishing will continue to be available at nearby creeks, ponds and lakes, many of which are located on department-owned land.

Pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, the department's Board of Commissioners, at its June 7 meeting, held a public hearing and adopted a declaration that the closure would have no negative impact on the environment.

During the hearing, High Desert Multiple Use Coalition Chair Ron Schiller told the board that the negative declaration is seriously flawed in several areas.

"First, we feel that the estimated use by only 200 individuals per year is far too low but, on the other hand, lower usage allows for a more enjoyable experience, lessens the strain on the resource, and keeps the area more manageable for the Department of Water and Power," he said.

Schiller said the Negative Declaration cites vulnerability to terrorist attack as the reason for the proposed closure but requests for the supporting documentation has been denied due to vague undefined security concerns. "In the absence of any factual supporting justification, we can only speculate as to what actual threats truly exist."

He pointed out that south of Haiwee Reservoir the aqueduct runs for hundreds of miles underground, above ground, and in open stream.

"Much of this system is remotely located with numerous public roads crossing, running along, or directly on top of the aqueduct. There are vents and other existing features that are much more vulnerable to attack than Haiwee Reservoir," said Schiller.

The negative declaration states, "the California Supreme Court and the Attorney General's office have held that the right to fish is not absolute and this right is subject to reasonable regulation and could be extinguished if public recreational fishing were to become incompatible with the reservoir's function as a domestic water supply source.

"Haiwee Reservoir has been open for fishing for 11 years with no apparent water-quality issues," Schiller said, adding that access is still considerably restricted by requiring vehicles to park a considerable distance from the shore, and additional limitations have been placed on activities and equipment.

"We do not believe that the negative declaration adequately justifies closure of public access to the reservoir and certainly not to the extent of extinguishing our constitutional rights."

Earlier this year, the Ridgecrest City Council and the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved resolutions supporting continued public access to Haiwee Reservoir.

"The LADWP is pleased to maintain most of its Eastern Sierra lands open to the public for recreational uses," Coufal added. "Unfortunately in these times it has become necessary to close North and South Haiwee reservoirs to protect the water supply for the citizens of the second-largest city in the United States."

In December 2004 the department announced its intention to close the reservoir to public access citing a 2001 security assessment recommending closure.