Employee Voices: Hispanic Heritage Month

By Albert Rodriguez

LADWP celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 in honor of Hispanic contributions to American society at large and to LADWP. This annual celebration of the history and culture of U.S. Hispanic communities coincides with Independence Day celebrations of several Latin American countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Chile.

Over 37% of LADWP’s 11,347 employees identify as Hispanic. The largest portion is within skilled craft (46.2%) and service maintenance positions (53%). All of these employees proudly contribute every day to the reliability and resiliency of our city’s water and power service.

Intake Magazine recently asked Hispanic LADWP leaders to share their thoughts on their heritage, and how it has helped their professional outlook and inspired them to contribute to LADWP and our efforts and initiatives to improve our city every day.

Listen to more of our employees discussing their Hispanic heritage during a virtual panel in October.

“Mi Vida Voices on Hispanic Culture, Traditions and Life” Virtual Employee Panel

 

 




Commemorating 50 Years After Sylmar Earthquake

During the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, the Van Norman Dam (right) came close to breaching while the Sylmar Converter Station (left) was severely damaged. (Photos from the LADWP photo archives)

By Dawn Cotterell

On February 9, 1971 at 6 a.m., a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the San Fernando Valley, causing major damage throughout the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Hundreds of schools and thousands of homes were destroyed and overpasses collapsed. Approximately 64 people lost their lives.

LADWP saw devastating impacts on the water and power systems. The Van Norman Dam came close to breaching, forcing about 80,000 residents to be evacuated. Sylmar Converter Station, which had been completed only a year prior, was severely damaged. The water distribution pipeline network su­ffered more than 1,000 leaks.

On February 9, 2021 LADWP commemorated the 50th anniversary of the earthquake by joining in the UCLA Lifelines webinar, where more than 600 industry experts, academia and others participated. Steve Cole, Manager of Water Engineering and Technical Services (WETS), presented at the event, covering what happened 50 years ago, infrastructure improvements made since and how we are now more prepared.

“Earthquakes have been one of the most significant learning lessons in the field of engineering. Certainly, being in earthquake country it has driven our design and inspired changes in what we do,” said General Manager and Chief Engineer Martin Adams. “We have had significant changes in the design criteria, particularly regarding dam construction and building construction for the critical water facilities.”

LADWP is a leader in the country for our work installing earthquake resistant pipe that was developed in Japan. We’ve also focused on improving our power system infrastructure by upgrading facilities, replacing wood poles with fiber glass and steel poles, upgrading circuits and more.

The webinar also featured a video produced by the Department’s Communications and Public A­ffairs team, which brought to life visuals demonstrating the damage caused from the 1971 earthquake and included interviews with Adams, retired LADWP employee Craig Davis and UCLA expert and professor Ertugrul Taciroglu.

Watch the video

Earthquakes are a reality of life for us in Southern California. LADWP is constantly striving to increase the reliability of our water infrastructure, from intake to tap, and working to guard our power system against disasters. The safety of our sta­ff, our customers and the community at large is, and will remain, the backbone of our daily operations.




LADWP Prepares 2020 Water Resources Plan

Ensuring Available Water Supply for Next 25 Years

By Sylvia Beltran

Once every five years, LADWP submits a plan to the State of California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that details how they will ensure adequate water supplies are available to meet the existing and future needs of the City of Los Angeles.  The requirement to develop an Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) applies to all urban water suppliers that either supply over 3,000 acre-feet of water annually or serve more than 3,000 customers.

DWR requires urban water suppliers assess the reliability of their existing and planned water sources, describe the demand management measures and conservation efforts to reduce water demand, describe activities to develop alternative sources of water, assess reliability and vulnerability of available water supplies, submit a water shortage contingency plan, and report on climate change impacts and energy intensity for the next 25 years. To assist with this projection, LADWP utilizes population forecast determined by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). SCAG is the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization and represents six counties and 191 cities and more than 19 million residents.

LADWP’s Water Resources Development Group began laying out the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan in 2019. They didn’t start from scratch, but needed to update the 2015 UWMP. The UWMP was the first program to go through the recently convened Water System’s Stakeholder Engagement Group (SEG), which is comprised of over 100 stakeholders and subject matter experts to support and participate in the development of various water initiatives with the goal of promoting reliable and high-quality drinking water for the City of Los Angeles. The group members represent LA and include non-profit organizations, agencies, neighborhood councils, universities, and other water policy expertise across Los Angeles.

This UWMP cycle was the first time the UWMP required a Water Shortage Contingency Plan, which details the prioritized actions LADWP would take when water shortage conditions occur as the result of drought, earthquakes, fires or other catastrophic events.

Information shared and discussed with the SEG occurred over five meetings in 2020. The discussions and feedback were proven invaluable and documented in a summary from each meeting and posted on the ladwp.com/seg website for transparency and easy access. The first SEG meeting was held in person with subsequent meetings held virtually. Once all studies were completed and the findings were shared with the SEG, general information meetings were held in early 2021 followed by the required public hearings in March.

Led by Sabrina Tsui, Manager of Resources Development, the team involved in the development of the 2020 UWMP include Benjamin Wong, Supervisor of Water Resources Strategic Planning, Ahmed Jaber, Civil Engineering Associate, Arin Nayirian, Civil Engineering Associate, and Sara Mouakkad, Civil Engineering Associate.

The UWMP goes before the LADWP Board of Commissioners in May for approval and will be submitted to the State of California Department of Water Resources by July 1, 2021.

Learn More




LA Business Journal’s CFO of the Year

Q & A with Ann M. Santilli

By Mia Rose-Wong

Ann Santilli is LADWP’s Chief Financial Officer, managing an annual budget of over $5.5 billion. With over 30 years working in the Los Angeles government utility sector, Santilli has helped helped LADWP overcome many challenging issues. As CFO, Ann provides leadership, direction and management of the Department’s financial team. She oversees the Financial Services Organization (FSO), directing LADWP’s Accounting and Financial Reporting Division, Finance and Risk Control Division, Internal Audit Division, Corporate Performance, Budget Office, and Financial Planning and Rates.

Following Ann’s recent win as the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Government CFO of the Year, she talks with Intake about her background in finance and offers some helpful tips for Angelenos.

What brought you into the world of finance?

When I was in high school I had an opportunity to take accounting courses in my junior and senior year. I really enjoyed the classes and thought they made sense. In my senior year, I decided to pursue a degree in business from Cal State Northridge.

What would you tell your 21-year old self?

Don’t underestimate yourself. Yes, there will be other people with more experience, but don’t shy away from higher level work. Also, mistakes will happen. Learn from them and move on. Do not let mistakes slow you down or reduce your desire to contribute. Also, don’t wait for someone to ask you to do work that you know is needed. Initiating work shows you understand and care about the results and understand why it is needed. Lastly, remember your career is a marathon, not a sprint. You will likely not get every promotional opportunity you apply for, and there will always be someone to say “no” to your ideas; but don’t let that discourage you. Maintaining your positive, can-do attitude and strong work ethic will work to your advantage.

As CFO, I’m sure you have your share of challenges, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job? The most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my role is balancing all the different tasks that come to Financial Services. I am fortunate to work with a very talented group of managers who have also been at LADWP for close to 30 years. They are masters at their craft! Together we get through tough situations and leverage our finances to make infrastructure improvements keep utility rates low. The most rewarding part is seeing the results of our work, both inside and outside of Financial Services.

How has women in leadership evolved since you began your career in finance?

Women in leadership has steadily increased over my career. When you look at LADWP and some of the vendors we work with you can see more women as part of the teams and in management roles. Women have not moved too much into the operational side of utilities. I would like to see that happen over the next few years.

You work for a $5.5 billion-dollar government organization, what financial tools do you use that can help the everyday household maintain good financial health?

Using a budget in your everyday household is a great tool. This will help you make decisions and plan for the future. We all have limited income, and cannot say “yes” to everything we want to spend money on. Understanding what you spend your money on is the first step to getting a better handle on your finances. Once you know what you spend your money on you can match it up to your income, plan your spending, work toward your savings goals, and be in control of your finances. It’s too easy to overspend with credit cards today. A household budget can help avoid overspending, unnecessary stress, and paying unnecessary interest.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

I was very honored to be nominated for the award and to receive it. In a certain sense the nomination meant a bit more because it was by my colleagues. LADWP has many employees and we all work hard. Having someone inside LADWP acknowledge that makes you realize that your willingness to help to achieve the desired results does not go unnoticed.




Making Salt Grass Grow

Staff Finds Innovative Solution for Owens Lake Mitigation Project

By Jessica Johnson

Thanks to hard work, ingenuity, and a ‘can do’ attitude, LADWP met a tough deadline for successfully growing salt grass at Owens Lake—one of the approved methods for complying with stringent air quality requirements to combat dust and pollution at the long-dry lake.

LADWP’s Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program is the largest dust control project in the country, successfully mitigating 99 percent of the dust from a 48.6 square-mile area of the exposed dry lake bed. Located roughly 220 miles from downtown Los Angeles, the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Project has been ongoing since the early 2000s, and addresses the environmental impact of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system while also serving to protect the Owens Lake ecosystem.

Recently, after completing construction for approximately 122 acres – almost 110 football fields of managed vegetation – LADWP teams were put to the test again.  With a completion date of December 2017, LADWP had until 2019 to pass stringent annual performance compliance for managed vegetation required by the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin). Great Basin allows two years from the construction completion date to grow enough vegetation to cover a minimum of 37 percent of a dust control area.

After the first full day of work, LADWP staff was able to successfully harvest 33 rolls of sod. The daily average increased to over 50 for the entire duration of the project. Photo by Adam Solis

After one year of growing vegetation at Owens Lake, the LADWP team realized the soil was still too salty to establish vegetation and started looking into ways to better grow the plants.

“Growing a salt grass sod farm would take three to five years. After discussions with biologists, local farmers, salt grass experts, and sports turf specialists, we decided sod was going to be the only way we would meet our regulatory compliance deadline and avoid fines of up to roughly $1.4 million per year,” said Adam Solis, LADWP Construction Manager for the project.

To support a project of this size, LADWP construction managers allocated staff from construction yards in Bishop, Independence, Mojave, and Los Angeles.

Before any transplanting and growing took place, LADWP staff had to address several factors from reoccurring drainage issues, lack of irrigation in harvest sites to finding the right equipment that would work for the unique terrain they were dealing with.

To address the drainage issues, LADWP crews restored approximately 5,800 linear feet of ditches and installed approximately 2,170 linear feet of subsurface drains to accelerate getting the salts out of the soil. LADWP then imported 10,000 cubic feet (1,000 truckloads) of clean sand that was spread over portions of the area in order to provide a clean base for plants to grow.

Executing multifaceted enhancement projects is not a new undertaking for LADWP, but working under a tight deadline wasn’t easy. In part because of the team’s “can do” attitude and efforts across multiple construction yards and management teams, it was announced by Great Basin in April 2020 that LADWP officially passed the annual performance compliance assessment in all managed vegetation locations on Owens Lake.

LADWP staff planted over 200,000 plugs and plants in bare areas to accelerate vegetation growth. Photo by Adam Solis

“Our team accomplished the impossible and avoided annual violation fines and potentially litigation,” said Jaime Valenzuela, LADWP Manager of Owens Lake Capital Development and Implementation.

He offered a special thanks needs to the Maintenance & Construction Helpers, Equipment Operators, Power Shovel Operators, Aqueduct and Reservoir Keepers, Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanics, Heavy Duty Truck Operators, C&M Supervisors, Labor Supervisors/ Resident Farming Experts, Design Engineers, Watershed Resource Specialists, Environmental Specialists, Hydrographers, and Engineers.

“They got it done with minimal consultant support,” Valenzuela said. Once fully up and running, LADWP staff was able to harvest and install a quarter-acre per day on average, and an area larger than a football field in one week. Since completing the installation, LADWP staff has been monitoring the vegetation and expects to watch it grow throughout the year.

 




Water Workers Tap Into Skills and Talents

By Albert Rodriguez

The skills and talents of LADWP’s water distribution workers were on display February 27, 2020 during the 10th Annual Sylmar West Tap Off competition, where waterworks employees showcase their abilities in action-packed water utility-related events.

Workers from LADWP Water Distribution Division district yards and other local water utilities came to compete in technically difficult events known as Pipe Tap, Hydrant Hysteria, Hot Flare and Meter Madness. These events push competitors to the limit, testing their abilities, knowledge, endurance and teamwork.

“The Tap Off competition is a time-honored tradition for our crews,” said Robert Lopez, LADWP Water Utility Superintendent and newly appointed manager of the Sylmar West Training Facility. “We utilize modern pneumatic machines to tap into pipes in day-to-day operations, but the competition showcases the traditional, manual way of doing this. It’s important to maintain these skills in an event like this that builds moral and brings everyone together in a spirit of camaraderie.”

The main event, Pipe Tap, requires a three-person crew to manually drill a hole and install a valve into pressurized cement-lined, ductile iron pipe using a heavy, hand-cranked tapping machine. Copper service lines are then quickly attached and run to a service meter in a timed event. Their movements are frenetic and feverish, but carefully choreographed, and if you’re too close to the action you just might get a splash of water!

Though they struggled with a broken drill bit, the “L.A. Tappers” LADWP team from Western District, which included Jose Campos, Mark Winkler, Nick Castruita and coach Joe Castruita, placed a close second to the winning team “Surf City Tappers” from Huntington Beach Water.

Other noteworthy wins by LADWP crews included first place for the “Western Hydro Kings” from Western District (Cesar Barragan, Chris Torres and Ramsay Hernandez) in the Hydrant Hysteria event for the second year in a row, and two showings in the Hot Flare competition. Justice Baldwin of East Valley Water Distribution came in at number one for the second straight year, and Alan Verdi of Trunkline Construction took third place.

A total of five LADWP teams competed in this year’s Tap Off events representing the East Valley and Western Districts as well as Trunkline Construction. As Tap Off gets bigger every year and gains more notoriety, organizers hope more employees will get involved and attend this exciting event next year. Winners will go on the regional competition in Anaheim (date to be announced).

Western Tappers’ Alfredo Sandoval gives it all he has to hold the tap machine as Chris Torres furiously cranks down on the drill bit during LADWP’s 10th Annual Tap Off Competition. Photo by Art Mochizuki




West Valley Water Team Praised for Customer Service Excellence

By Albert Rodriguez

Digging up a residential street to install water pipe is never an easy proposition for both our crews and the community. On top of the difficult excavation, trenching and pipe installation, crews have to contend with residents leaving and entering their homes or apartments at all hours of the day. For residents, it can be a major inconvenience, and for crews, it interrupts their work flow. Thankfully, our crews are aware of the need for great customer service and focusing on the values of positivity, cooperation and politeness in every interaction.

The West Valley District Main Line Replacement Crew, led by Water Utility Supervisor Pedro Tovar, was recently cited as an example of these values by a customer living near their job site at DeSoto Avenue and Gresham Street in Canoga Park. The crew has been installing earthquake resistant pipe along the residential part of the street. Every time a vehicle needs access, the crew has to stop work, get out of the trench, lift the backhoe and cover the trench with a steel plate so the vehicle can get across.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to the LADWP crew for their professionalism and great customer service during construction,” wrote local resident Angel Li Wang in an email. “I know it’s difficult, but the crew accommodated each and every resident and I have been impressed with the job that they are accomplishing. On behalf of myself and all the residents here on De Soto, we all appreciate what these fine gentleman are doing day in and day out.”

As LADWP continues a major effort to replace aging infrastructure all over the city, crews must necessarily impose on the daily lives of customers. But such inconvenience can be mitigated with prior planning, coordination, and lots of understanding between crews and residents.

“Our crews recognize that residents are our stakeholders, and at the same time, we’re responsible for whatever impression that customer walks away with,” said Tovar. “We stress the importance of working with residents, keeping our work areas clean and educating them about the project.”

The project is slated for completion in May of this year, but it already looks to be a success, thanks to the great work by this outstanding group of LADWP employees.




Water Quality Staff Meet Adopt-A-School Pen Pals at Special JFB Luncheon

By Albert Rodriguez

LADWP Water Quality staff helped kick-start summer 2019 back in June for their Adopt-A-School pen pals from 75th Street Elementary School with an end-of-the-school-year celebration and luncheon. The event at the John Ferraro Building, finally allowed the pen pals to meet in person following a year of exchanging hand-written letters about their hobbies, family and friends, school work, and career goals. The program helps students develop reading, writing, and social skills and also provides them with an opportunity to learn from our own in-house S.T.E.M. professionals by developing friendships and learning about careers in the water system.

LADWP employees and their student pen pals were able to get to know each other face-to-face, enjoy a meal and listen to informative presentations by Utility Services Specialist Lead, Sandra Yeh on how the Pen Pal program benefited and motivated her as a young student and another on water conservation by Anthony Tew, Civil Engineering Associate. After the meal students took part in an interactive science experiment developed by LADWP Microbiologist and Adopt-a-School program coordinator Manely Rashedan. Students learned about culturing microbes and their presence on various surfaces/objects.

“We planned all the presentation and activities in a way that would inspire our little pen pals to think about a future career in S.T.E.M. fields,” said Rashedan “Students had a wonderful time meeting their employee pen pals and loved participating in the science activity. It was quite special to them.”

75th Street Elementary School is one of 22 schools adopted by LADWP during the 2018-2019 school year. The two main components of LADWP’s Adopt-A-School initiative include the Pen Pal Program and Reading Buddies Program. Although this is the 8th year the Water Quality Division has partnered with 75th Street Elementary School, employees Department-wide have written to and inspired students at various local elementary schools since the Adopt-A-School program began back in 1984.




LADWP Headquarters Gets Charged Up

JFB Becomes Test Site for Dual Battery Pilot Project

By Carol Tucker

The northeast corner of the LADWP JFB parking lot has hosted several demonstration projects over the years, including a 200 kW fuel cell and three micro-turbines totaling 120 kW. Recently, the site has been expanded to accommodate a battery energy storage system (BESS) pilot project that will help determine the viability of battery technology in transitioning to a clean energy future for Los Angeles.

The JFB BESS Pilot Project will “pave the way for multiple energy storage projects at the transmission and distribution levels as well as customer-owned energy storage projects,” said James Barner, Manager of Resource Planning and Development.  “This project will help inform future decisions on achieving the goals of the Mayor’s Green New Deal and state mandates for reducing carbon emissions from our power generation portfolio.” Under the Green New Deal, LADWP is working to increase renewable energy to 55% by 2025, 80% by 2036, and 100% by 2045 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its power portfolio.

“It’s important that we gain a better understanding of all available energy storage technologies to meet our goals,” said Electrical Engineer Matt Hone, who heads the Power System’s energy storage and new technologies group. Once the test period is concluded, the JFB BESS will be used for a variety of energy applications, such as shaving energy use during peak periods, and remote energy monitoring and control.

The project has involved installing two types of battery energy storage technologies side by side, and connecting them to LADWP’s headquarters building. One is a 100 kW, 4-hour lithium-ion battery and the other is a 100 kW, 4-hour vanadium redox flow battery.

With installation nearly complete, the project will undergo a series of tests before being placed into service prior to the end of the year. Subsequently, LADWP will partner with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for a one-year pilot study. The study will evaluate and gain insights regarding the performance, operation and feasibility of these two types of battery technology as well as provide training for LADWP staff. Other goals are to help LADWP transition to a more resilient electric power system, and ensure that the most up-to-date operational and safety standards are incorporated.

Lithium-ion batteries are the more popular type of battery technology, commonly used in cell phones and also widely used in electric and hybrid vehicles. LADWP has already gained experience with lithium-ion batteries at the Beacon Energy Storage System in the Mojave Desert. Flow batteries are not widely used by electric utilities but offer a lot of potential advantages for energy storage, such as improved safety, increased charging capacity and longer duration capability. Flow batteries use liquid electrolyte stored in external tanks rather than in each battery cell.

Arevik Petrosyan, Associate Electrical Engineer and Project Manager along with Hone, said the two-year initiative has been a team effort including staff from Power Engineering and Construction, Architecture and Drafting, Fire Protection, Supply Chain, and Information Technology Services to address various issues including those related to cyber security. LADWP construction forces did all site preparation work, such as foundation expansion, conduit and ground grid installation, transformer, switch gear and other interconnection equipment. The contractor, Doosan GridTech /KTY Engineering, has been tasked with procuring, installing, integrating, and testing and commissioning both battery systems.




Tapping Into Excellence

Water System Employees Take Part in Annual Competition

By Albert Rodriguez

It was non-stop action as the best-of-the-best in LADWP’s Water System showcased their skills and talents during the exciting 9th Annual Sylmar WEST Tap Off competition on February 20.  The annual competition brought in teams of water utility workers from LADWP’s Water Distribution Division district yards and other local water utilities to show off their skill in various water-related events.

Teams squared off in colorfully named, but technically difficult events, such as Pipe Tapping, Hydrant Hysteria, Hot Flare and Meter Madness. This year’s Tap-off event also featured a Safety Fair put on by Water Distribution Division Safety with vendors and water utility product exhibitions

The main Pipe Tappers competition entails a three-person crew drilling a hole and installing a valve into pressurized cement-lined, ductile iron pipe using a heavy, hand-cranked tapping machine. Copper service lines are then quickly attached and run to a service meter all in about two minutes all while avoiding leaks as much as possible. The winning LADWP team this year was the “LA Tappers” of Trunk Line Construction  featuring Jose Campos, Sr. Water Utility Worker; Mark Winkler, Water Utility Worker; Nick Castruita, Water Utility Supervisor and Coach Joey A. Castruita Jr. Water Utility Supervisor.

“We normally would use modern pneumatic machines, but if those go down out in the field, it’s important to maintain these skills,” said Tommy Gibbs, Water Utility Supervisor, Central District. “The competition brings us together. It’s good training and great for moral.”

The Hydrant Hysteria competition entails assembling a fire hydrant that is broken down into separate components and re-assembled as quickly as possible. The winning team was “Western Hydro Kings” from Western District comprised of Luis E. Zamudio, Water Utility Worker – Christopher Torres, Maintenance Construction Helper and Coach Cesar Barragan, Sr. Water Utility Worker.

The Meter Madness competition featured water utility workers putting together a water service meter from a bucket of parts. Winner of this event was Angus L. Hall, Maintenance Construction Helper of Western District.

In the Hot Flare competition, participants must skillfully remove a water meter from a pressurized water service line, cut the pipe, hammer in a new valve, shut it off and then install a new water meter, all while icy-cold water is splashing around. Their movements must be efficient and precise in order to minimize water loss and install a properly functioning meter. The winner of Hot Flare this year was Alan S. Verdi Maintenance Construction Helper and Justice Baldwin Water Utility Worker of West Valley District.

Justice Baldwin flares copper as he strikes an opening into a copper pipe.

“It’s important that our crews stay at the top of their skill set with events like this, especially during leak season,” said Donald Williams, Western District Superintendent. “Colder weather and colder water coming into the distribution system along with older infrastructure can keep our crews really busy during this time of year.”

The LA Tappers went on take first place at the regional competition in Sacramento on March 27th vaulting them to the AWWA ACE19 national competition in Denver, CO June 10-12. LA Tappers were in the lead for most of qualifying rounds until being bumped out of finals in the last afternoon session by Birmingham, Alabama Water Works “Bama Boys” who went on to take 1st place. Undaunted, LA Tappers hope to return next year for what promises to be another tough, but exciting competition.




Improving Power Reliability by Land and Sea

By Paola Adler

The last leg of a power reliability project to strengthen an essential transmission line connecting the Pacific Northwest to Southern California has been completed. Spearheaded by LADWP’s Power Transmission and Distribution Division’s Overhead/Underground Transmission team, the Pacific Direct Current Intertie (PDCI) ground return system’s ocean electrode  was upgraded to improve power reliability and capacity for Los Angeles customers and other utilities that utilize the line.

The PDCI is a DC transmission system that has a capacity of 3,220 MW, enough to power two million homes. The original system was put in service in 1970 and has been continually maintained and expanded, but the southern ground return connection had not been replaced since the PDCI was built.

Originating at Sylmar Converter Station and terminating in Santa Monica Bay, the ground return system is designed to carry current safely when the PDCI experiences an interruption and also ensures consistent flow of electricity. The ocean electrode component provides a “ground point” where electricity can travel through the earth. As the operating agent of the system’s southern area, LADWP began a project to inspect and upgrade this portion of the line in 2014.

“This project was a unique challenge for LADWP because it included replacing both underground cable on land and submarine cable under 120 feet of water in the Pacific Ocean,” said Mohammad Khajavi, Power System electrical engineer and the project’s director. “There were a lot of technical challenges and moving parts we had to manage, but our biggest achievement is creating a team that worked well together to achieve a complete project at a cost lower than expected.”

Because the cables stretch more than four miles offshore, a barge and tugboats were used to carry equipment and work crews, and ocean divers were used to help properly install components underwater. LADWP used DC cross-linked polyethylene insulated cable for the project and installed 36 offshore vaults, using a design that exceeds safety standards and protects marine life and customers onshore.

More than 50 LADWP employees worked on the project, which was commissioned in November 2018. Divisions beyond the Power System also contributed to the project’s success through environmental monitoring and compliance, permitting and public outreach. The team’s efforts will help support reliable power flow to Angelenos for decades to come.

The project included replacing both underground cable on land and submarine
cable under 120 feet of water in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Jairo Guerrido)




Birders Flock to 2019 Owens Lake Bird Festival

By Sylvia Beltran

Nearly 170 bird watchers and nature enthusiasts descended on the town of Lone Pine, California, April 26-28 to participate in the 5th Annual Owens Lake Bird Festival. The three-day event, sponsored by Friends of Inyo, LADWP and others, brought outdoor enthusiasts together for this popular event. Birders, as they fondly refer to themselves, participated in numerous outings onto Owens Lake and excursions to other areas around Lone Pine to view birds, wildflowers, geologic and historical features.

As the early morning sun rose over the Inyo Mountains to the east of Owens Lake, several groups of birders traveled onto the lake stopping to eagerly set up their spotting scopes to view birds from a distance. Birds could be found playfully scurrying on the shorelines, foraging for food or flying in for a restful stop as they migrated to their summer home. Mild temperatures in the mornings made bird watching more comfortable. As the weather warmed in the afternoon, it didn’t stop birders from heading back to the lake to try and spot other birds and maybe catch a peek of the cryptic Snowy Plover.

The Snowy Plover, which nests during this time of year on the playa of Owens Lake, is classified as a species of special concern, which limits the proximity of humans and equipment to their nests.  Other birds found on the lake during the festival included the Western and Least Sandpiper, American Avocet, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard and other water birds.

Juanita Smith-Nokao was a first-time birder.  Born in Bishop, Calif., Juanita moved away for college and upon graduation, she moved to Japan to teach mathematics. She later moved to Monterey, Calif., where she continued teaching until her recent retirement. Once retired, Juanita moved to Lone Pine.  She was never a birder, but wanted to understand how others could be attracted to the activity. Her initial interest was sparked while teaching in Monterey where she observed that ravens were astute enough to learn the school bell schedule. They would swoop down onto the grounds where crumbs had fallen after snack and lunch period. Now that she lives in Lone Pine and the bird festival is in her back yard, she wanted to participate in the event. She made new friends – both human and winged – and stated she would attend next year’s festival.

Juanita Smith-Nokao using her binoculars to view the birds from a distance on Owens Lake.

Jay Carroll, a retired marine biologist from Morro Bay, Calif., finds birding appealing.  Jay described the appeal as a free peek into nature and how birds behave, an opportunity to study birds’ feather colors and markings while enjoying the outdoors and nature. At this year’s bird festival, Jay focused on the migrating birds like the Western Sandpiper, American Avocet, Northern Pintail and others.

The Owens Lake Bird Festival has grown in popularity and participation since it began in 2014. Participants come from various parts of California, including San Diego, Mammoth Lakes, the Bay Area and from Nevada. LADWP employees provide support for the annual event and lead groups onto Owens Lake for their bird watching enjoyment.

LADWP began the largest dust mitigation efforts in the United States at Owens Lake in 2000. Since the efforts began, the exposed lakebed has been transformed into a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife. The lakebed has a myriad of mitigation measures including shallow flooding, native vegetation, gravel and tillage to abate harmful dust from blowing off the dry lakebed.

Learn more about LADWP’s environmental work at Owens Lake.