Snow melt prompts concerns over possible flooding in Owens Valley

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While California received much-needed water from storms, the mounds of snow and water are now raising concerns about possible floods in Owens Valley. (KABC)

For years, California was in need of water, but a series of storms this year have brought the much-needed resource to the state.

While more water might be good for Los Angeles, it could mean major flooding in the Owens Valley, especially as the snow melts.

Our Eyewitness News drone was over the same lake that Mayor Eric Garcetti toured by helicopter on Monday. He recently declared a state of emergency for the area.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and power was also at the lake with heavy equipment because of concerns the lake's water level may rise by 7 feet. Aqueduct manager Jim Yannotta said crews are working to clear waterways of all the gunk that might cause problems downstream.

"This winter is the second wettest winter in recorded history," Yannotta said. "By us cleaning out those ditches and waterways, it reduces the potential of culverts from actually clogging up and flooding."

Jeff Krolo is a Pacific Crest Trail hiker. His trip is on hold because he didn't realize there would so much snow. But he is keeping busy in other ways.

"I am working on a ranch. We are reinforcing their creek with sandbags. They have about 40 percent higher flow than usual. It's very turbulent," he said.

The aqueduct is operating at full capacity.

More than $1 billion in LADWP infrastructure is being threatened, which includes equipment that helps keep dust problems from spiraling out of control.

"I hope that we have a very temperate summer so that we don't have an immediate snow melt of a lot of runoff all at once," Yannotta said.

Some of the LADWP's most recent work has been near Manzanar National Historic Site, where Bairs Creek is typically diverted. But now, because of what the agency did, some of the water is being diverted in another direction.

The National Park Service is hoping recent work by the utility company will protect the integrity of the historic site, where close to 10,000 Japanese Americans were confined during World War II.

"Although what remains is mostly remnant foundations, if we lose those part of that story is gone," said Bernadette Johnson of the National Park Service.
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weatherrainstormfloodingstate of emergencysnow
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