For more than a year, Silver Lake hasn't been so silver. Its trademark reservoir became a dirt hole after it was drained by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in 2015 as part of a plan to phase out exposed sources of drinking water and lay pipe for a subterranean system.
There was a fierce debate last year about whether to refill the reservoir during a drought. Then healthy rainfall this season filled the reservoir with a little water. More significantly, the rainfall has allowed the city to act sooner than expected in refilling the reservoir with nonpotable water.
The office of Councilman Mitch O'Farrell announced that the DWP is expected to start refilling by mid-April. The job is estimated to last two months. A plan to start a 12-month refill in May, possibly using recycled water to abide by drought-wary conservation efforts, has been elbowed aside. "Surplus water from the above-average snowpack runoff water from the Eastern Sierra region will be made available to refill Silver Lake Reservoir ahead of schedule," according to O'Farrell's office.
City officials plan to keep the surface at 440 to 450 feet above sea level, what the councilman's office calls its "historic levels." Ivanhoe Reservoir, an appendagelike body to the north of Silver Lake Reservoir, will be drained of whatever drinking water is left in it and refilled next month from the same Eastern Sierra source, says Susan Rowghani, director of engineering for the city's water system. Its shade balls also will be history, she says.
Silver Lake leaders are ecstatic. "I think it's fantastic it's being refilled," says lifelong Silver Lake resident Anne-Marie Johnson, who's a member of the neighborhood council. "Community pressure reminded the city of their assurances to refill it, and fortunately Mother Nature worked in everybody's favor."
Catherine Geanuracos, founder of the year-old group Silver Lake Forward, which would like to see the reservoir become part of a park that has wider public access, says, "There were concerns about how long it's been taking" to refill the reservoir.
"The water coming back more quickly is certainly a good thing," she says. "The big picture is that this is an incredible opportunity for access to public space in a city that's very park-poor."
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Rusty Millar, a Silver Lake Neighborhood Council member, says the refill will likely bring outsiders to the community — but that's OK with him. "It belongs to the entire city, not you or me."
But not everyone is gung-ho about the idea of increased public access for the fenced-off reservoir. "I for one would not like it turned into a park like Echo Park Lake," Johnson says. "I'd like to see it preserved as a wildlife sanctuary."
Geanuracos' previous moonshot at turning the reservoir into a park called Silver Lake Beach has been put on the shelf, but she still thinks there's room for a parklike redux that would include getting rid of the fences and concrete banks. "This is an incredible public asset," she says. "What are we going to do with it?"