8/27/2010 Regreening or degreening?
Regreening or degreening?
Pumping groundwater to mitigate the impacts of groundwater pumping

By now, most of you have probably received our notice about the Inyo County/ Los Angeles Standing Committee meeting this Friday, August 27, 2010, at 10 a.m. in Independence. Due to a Board of Supervisors decision Tuesday, August 24, we're writing again to urge people to attend the Standing Committee meeting if you are able and to contact your Supervisor if you can't.

Yesterday an OVC member alerted us to the nature of the project described in Standing Committee meeting agenda item number 4, "Regreening Northeast of Big Pine." The regreening project is intended to mitigate for environmental damage to the Big Pine area from LADWP's groundwater pumping and other water management practices in the area from 1970 to 1990. The project originated as an Enhancement/Mitigation project approved by the Standing Committee in 1988, but it was ultimately included as a mitigation measure in LADWP's 1991 groundwater pumping Environmental Impact Report (EIR). As described in the EIR, the project would provide irrigation water to "regreen" or create 30 acres of pasture northeast of Big Pine in an area significantly affected by groundwater pumping. However, due to inertia and questions about water supply, the project stalled for 12 years.

This Tuesday, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors voted to exempt an OFF-status well in order to pump groundwater into the Owens River in order, in turn, to "replace" surface water to be used on the regreening project, which is itself supposed to mitigate, in part, for damage from groundwater pumping. (The groundwater pumped into the Owens River enters the LA Aqueduct system, thereby "replacing" surface water used for the project.)

Wells are designated as being in OFF status when water tables drop so low that soil in the area becomes too dry to support native groundwater-dependent vegetation on the surface. In other words, they're in OFF status because pumping groundwater from them can contribute to a decline in or loss of groundwater-dependent vegetation. Pumping from the well in question, W375--which is near the river--will also drop water levels below the Big Pine Paiute Reservation and compound damage from groundwater pumping to supply the Fish Springs fish hatchery. (The original springs no longer flow due to LADWP pumping in the early 1970s.)

It is not astounding that LADWP will do whatever it can to avoid reducing its water exports from the Owens Valley. But why pump more groundwater from a damaged area for a project that's supposed to offset damage from groundwater pumping?

Ask Inyo County and LADWP why at the Standing Committee meeting. Let your supervisors know that it is not okay to exempt OFF-status wells or to pump even more groundwater from the damaged Big Pine area to export to Los Angeles, especially as a trade for supplying surface water to a project that LADWP is legally required to complete. It doesn't make sense and it's simply wrong to pump groundwater from damaged areas to mitigate for the groundwater pumping that caused the damage in the first place.
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