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The Silver Lake drought is over: Reservoir will be finally refilled

The drought is over in Silver Lake — at least, at its picturesque reservoir.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials announced Wednesday that the popular Silver Lake Reservoir — which has stood empty for more than a year — will be refilled starting in mid-April.

The 96-acre reservoir is expected to be fully refilled by the middle of June, nearly a year ahead of schedule. Officials previously said refilling would begin in May and take about 12 months.

The faster rate owes to months of powerful winter storms that soaked California and caused record snowpack levels in the Eastern Sierra, whose runoff provides much of L.A.’s water supply.

“With the above-average snowpack, we have a surplus of water in the L.A. Aqueduct system and with it the opportunity to refill Silver Lake Reservoir ahead of schedule,” said Richard Harasick, the agency’s senior assistant general manager of water.

Still, L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes part of the reservoir, called for continued conservation.

“This overflow is a gift,” he said, but “we need to continue to be vigilant in our conservation efforts for water use.”

Built in 1907, the Silver Lake Reservoir originally held an emergency supply of drinking water, but it later became part of the drinking water infrastructure.

The reservoir was drained in 2015 as part of a project by the DWP to build a pipeline that would maintain a connection to the water supply and isolate the reservoir, which will be filled but no longer part of the drinking water system. The lost storage was replaced with a new underground storage facility called the Headworks Reservoir.

The new subterranean reservoir, located north of Griffith Park, had to be built to comply with federal regulations requiring drinking-water storage to be covered or underground.

The 4,600-foot bypass pipeline project, which includes a 66-inch steel trunk line that runs along the bottom of the reservoir, was completed in February, according to utility spokeswoman Ellen Cheng.

Without water, the Silver Lake Reservoir was an unsightly concrete basin that resembled a proving ground, with construction trucks, equipment and sprawling weeds.

“We got our water back,” said Jill Cordes, one of the leaders of the Refill Silver Lake Now campaign, after the DWP made the announcement Wednesday.

The organization Cordes helped lead sprouted up amid a larger community debate over possible development around the reservoir, which is part of a 127-acre complex that includes a recreation center, open land and the smaller Ivanhoe Reservoir. The area is a popular destination for joggers.

Some want only to refill the reservoir, while others are open to expanded recreation opportunities.

Among the improvements that some residents are hoping for is the opening of a path along the southern part of the reservoir. Currently, the path ends and pedestrians have to walk around a recreation center before returning to the path closer to the water.

A larger community planning process is underway to solicit input about the future of the reservoir — something Cordes and others are eager to accelerate.

“We can look at this beautiful lake while we take five or 10 years to figure out what will make it better,” Cordes said. “It’s a win-win.”

matt.hamilton@latimes.com | @MattHjourno


UPDATES:

9:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background on the reservoir and comments about its future.

7:30 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify the original refill plan.

This article was originally published at 7:05 p.m.

An earlier version of this article stated that the new pipeline installed at Silver Lake Reservoir delivered water to customers in central and downtown Los Angeles. The pipeline was installed to bypass the reservoir and maintain the connection to the water supply. Also, DWP spokeswoman Ellen Cheng's last name was misspelled as Chang. ---
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