LADWP gathering data to map dry lake Master Project

Photo by LADWP
Staff Writer

Before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power implements the Owens Lake Master Project, and while the public begins commenting on the Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report, efforts are being made to better understand the lake bed’s topography.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday, hydrologists with the LADWP conducted a pilot study at Owens Lake near U.S. Highway 395 “to better understand the groundwater basin beneath the lake bed and protect habitat on the surface during the implementation of the Master Project,” a press release issued Monday states.
The study is being conducted using airborne electromagnetic surveying – a non-intrusive technique utilizing state-of-the-art equipment from air, specifically an Astar 350FX2 helicopter belonging to Native American Helicopter, LLC.
According to the press release, the equipment consists of a device resembling a webbed oval dangling 100 feet below the helicopter. This device sends radio signals into the ground then measures 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,” the press release states. “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.”
Data gathered from the study will be used by LADWP to map the location of bedrock, fault lines and groundwater depth. This information is meant to help LADWP prevent damage to private wells, vegetation, habitat as well as potential land subsidence.
“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.”
If the pilot study goes well, LADWP will utilize the new technique for future projects in the Eastern Sierra region, the press release states.