The Silver Lake Reservoir Will Be Refilled—Probably in Spring

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A crowd of hundreds packed into Micheltorena Elementary School Thursday night for a meeting concerning the future of the Silver Lake Reservoir. As people filed in, a group of neighborhood activists called Refill Silver Lake Now handed out stickers and spoke to people about their concerns over the displaced ducks they say have been wandering the neighborhood since the reservoir was drained last summer. Seats filled up quickly, and people sat on staircases and stood in aisles to hear LADWP officials, along with Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and David Ryu, discuss the future of the massive pit of dirt where once was Silver Lake.

They didn’t have to wait long for reassurance. “The most important thing is the Silver Lake Reservoir will be refilled,” Ryu said in his opening remarks. From there, the central questions of the meeting became “when?” and “how?”

These questions were primarily fielded by Marty Adams, senior assistant general manager of LADWP. He explained that before the reservoir can be refilled, construction must first be completed within the empty reservoir. DWP initially drained the lake in order to install piping that will transport drinking water to the new underground storage facility under construction near Griffith Park. That facility will replace Silver Lake and Ivanhoe Reservoirs as DWP seeks to comply with new federal guidelines that require reservoirs to be covered.

Director of Water Engineering and Technical Service Susan Rowghani gave a timeline for the completion of construction in the lake bed, which is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

DWP won’t be able to refill the reservoir right away, though. With the reservoir’s connections to the local water supply disconnected, another pipe system will have to be installed to cycle water in and out of the lake. Otherwise, the stagnant water will quickly become laden with bacteria and algae.

That’s expected to add a few months to the lake’s time as an empty hole in the ground. Adams’s best guess is that water will once again cover the floor of the reservoir in May or June of 2017.

But where will the water come from? DWP has a few ideas on that point. First, there’s the possibility of extending the recycled water system that currently irrigates the golf course at Griffith Park so that it reaches Silver Lake—and possibly beyond. Adams points out that both Echo and MacArthur Park Lakes are currently filled with drinking water. In the future, he suggests the bodies of water could all be fed from the same (non-potable) source.

Another potential source for the water is a groundwater well just north of the reservoir that would have to be reactivated. Stormwater could also be collected and used to mitigate the effects of evaporation occurring on the surface of the lake. Adams says he once had hopes that the LA River could be used to feed the reservoir, but that a complicated permitting process would make this all but impossible in the near term.

Officials suggested that while the lake is empty, residents should help to come up with a plan for its future. One thing that must be determined: how full should the reservoir be in the future? Adams pointed out that a shallower lake would be easier to keep clean, and would make future work in and around the reservoir easier to accomplish. A shallower level could also help to foster a wetlands area in which the water would be naturally filtered by wildlife.

Adams also suggested that while construction continues inside the reservoir, some of the unsightly asphalt that lines its sides could be removed and replaced with hydroseeding to prevent erosion. The crowd of people at the meeting didn’t seem to mind this idea, but some were wary that it would create further delays in refilling the lake. As several people pointed out, DWP initially planned to begin refilling the reservoir this summer.

One thing’s for sure: most residents at the meeting were not interested in a damn park! The loudest cheers of the evening came when a woman informed the officials at the meeting that Silver Lake did not want to hear about alternative uses for the reservoir—just a quick refill. There was also nearly a riot when O’Farrell began discussing the prospect of landscaping the path around the lake, making the mistake of comparing the project to Echo Park Lake and saying future public meetings would be a “marketplace of ideas.” From the back of the room, one woman shouted, “It’s not a marketplace. It’s a community!”

This was the first of three meetings to be held concerning the reservoir; the second will focus on future plans for Silver Lake. As Ryu noted in his closing remarks, that meeting is sure to be lively.

Silver Lake Reservoir

1850 W Silver Lake Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90026

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