News

2/15/2014 March 22, 2014 OVC fund raising event to feature Bill Powers 
OVC is pleased to announce that Bill Powers, an expert on distributed solar power generation (aka "Solar Done Right") will speak at our annual fund raising event Saturday March 22, 2014 at the Mountain Light Gallery, 106 Main St., Bishop, CA. The event will also feature the world premiere of an OVC promotional video done by Bishop production company Bristlecone Media, as well as a silent auction. Guests will have a chance to support OVC and also learn how to fight DWP's monstrous proposed industrial-scale solar facility to be built in the middle of the valley near Manzanar. Festivities start at 5:00 pm and conclude at 8:00 pm with a $10 suggested donation at the door.
Contacts:  Daniel Pritchett info@ovcweb.org Phone:

1/18/2014 OVC elects Board of Directors for 2014 
The Owens Valley Committee held its annual elections on January 14, 2014. Mary Roper, Harry Williams, Daniel Pritchett, Connie Spenger, and Nancy Masters were re-elected, and Max Gallegos was elected for the first time. After the election, the board elected Mary Roper to be president and Daniel Pritchett Vice President. Connie Spenger and April Zrelak agreed to continue as Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. The board thanks Mark Bagley (who resigned last fall) and outgoing president Alan Bacock for serving in 2013.
Contacts:  Phone:

6/11/2013 OVC newsletter available 
The spring/summer edition of the OVC newsletter is now available. If you didn't receive a hard copy in the mail, download it from the link above this news item or go to http://www.ovcweb.org/docs/Rainshadow_0413_v4.pdf
Contacts:  Phone:

5/26/2013 OVC leaves Owens Lake Planning Committee 
The Owens Valley Committee (OVC) has finally given up on the Owens Lake Planning Committee. In the morning session of the Planning Committee meeting of May 15, 2013, DWP's Marty Adams said, “It's a lot to ask of anyone to continue to work with us...If somebody thinks it's not worthwhile to work with us I fully understand." Nina Weisman (OVC representative to the Planning Committee) took Adams at his word. In the afternoon session, Weisman cited Adams' comments and stated that OVC had reached the point where it could no longer work with DWP through the Planning Committee. She proceeded to read a statement giving some background for OVC's resignation from the committee.

Wiesman commended DWP for its commitment to maintain bird habitat at Owens lake, but then stated OVC could not support DWP's “Owens Lake Master Project.” She gave three reasons: 1) DWP's decision to make Owens Lake Master Project implementation contingent upon LA winning litigation limiting its responsibility for dust mitigation to the existing 45 square mile area; 2) DWP's decision to include new groundwater pumping in the project; and 3) DWP's refusal to commit to using any water saved in Owens Valley.

Weisman then stated that DWP had improperly cited Planning Committee negotiations in web-based attacks on Great Basin Air Pollution Control District. She said OVC had asked that these attacks be removed from the internet, but that DWP had not done so. As a result, Weisman concluded that the Planning Committee had been captured by the DWP Public Relations department, and that OVC would no longer be able to be a member of or have its name associated with the Planning Committee.

According to the Master Plan website, the Owens Lake Planning Committee was convened by DWP in 2010 to “identify broadly supported goals to enhance the Owens lakebed,” with a charter specifying a consensus-based decision-making process. OVC was a member from the beginning. On March 26, 2013, DWP sent a letter to Planning Committee members stating that it had decided to unilaterally develop a plan for Owens Lake, thus abandoning its own consensus-based process. In April 2013, DWP unveiled its “Owens Lake Master Project” to replace the “Owens Lake Master Plan” previously under collaborative development by the Planning Committee.

After the meeting Weisman noted that the Planning Committee no longer has any power and has been reduced to an advisory role. She added that OVC does not want to be window dressing for DWP's efforts to establish a new wellfield in the name of dust mitigation at Owens Lake. OVC is committed to the health and prosperity of the entire valley and would be happy to join DWP and other stakeholders in good faith efforts to unify and appropriately manage the entire watershed, including Owens Lake and upstream portions of Owens Valley.
Contacts:  Phone:

5/16/2013 Eden Interrupted: Historical perspectives on Owens Valley agriculture 
Conversation #21 in the series "Conversations about water" sponsored by the Metabolic Studio. 7:00 pm Thursday, June 6, Mairs Market, 149 S. Edwards., Independence, CA
Contacts:  Phone: 510-468-7113

4/14/2013 DWP's Marty Adams to again speak to Inyo Supervisors 
DWP's Marty Adams will once again speak to Inyo County Supervisors at 9:30 am Tuesday April 16, presumably to again seek their support for the Owens Lake Master Plan that DWP is unilaterally developing. Given that the plan will undoubtedly call for new groundwater pumping and will not call for keeping any "saved" water in Owens Valley, it is not clear why Inyo County Supervisors would have any incentive to endorse it. Mr. Adams' efforts appear to be part of a statewide media campaign to greenwash LADWP's image and divert attention from its lawsuit attempting, among other things, to invalidate all existing agreements requiring it to mitigate dust at Owens Lake, thereby passing most mitigation costs from DWP ratepayers to the public at large.
Contacts:  Phone:

4/7/2013 OVC story on KCET 
A writer for station KCET in Los Angeles, the nation's largest independent public television station, visited Owens Valley last December and found it a “life changing experience.” His story, including quotes from OVC Board members Mary Roper and Daniel Pritchett is at http://www.kcet.org/news/the_back_forty/commentary/concrete-and-chaparral/where-the-water-comes-from-owning---and-owing---the-owens-valley.html
Contacts:  Phone:

4/3/2013 DWP abandons Owens Lake Master Plan negotiations 
On March 26, 2013, DWP's Martin Adams sent a letter to members of the Owens Lake Planning Committee in which he wrote that DWP had decided to develop an Owens Lake management plan unilaterally. He observed (correctly) that by developing a plan unilaterally, "it may appear that DWP is abandoning the master plan process..." In the same letter informing negotiating parties that DWP had abandoned negotiations, Adams asked that the Habitat subcommittee (of the Planning Committee) continue to meet. This is because DWP has decided to establish a new wellfield near Owens Lake and wants the subcommittee to help it decide how much damage it can do and still call the pumping “sustainable.” Adam's letter made no reference to the fact that DWP had sponsored public meetings in 1999 to address this question of acceptable impacts, and that the Inyo County public had said, in effect “no impacts are acceptable”.
Contacts:  Daniel Pritchett skypilots2@gmail.com Phone:

2/18/2013 Comments on dust control measures DEIR due March 18, 2013  
Given the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's ongoing efforts to increase water exports from the eastern Sierra Nevada--including, most recently, proposals to pump groundwater from the Owens (dry) Lake and assorted lawsuits against the Mammoth Lakes Community Water District and against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, the California Air Resources Board, the State Lands Commission, the United States Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-- it's no surprise that LADWP might seek to reduce water-based dust control efforts on the lakebed in other ways. Careful readers, therefore, might want to take proposed actions in a recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report with a grain of alkali dust, particularly when the goal of LADWP's efforts on the lakebed is described as "to reduce exceedances of the state and federal particulate matter air quality standards" (rather than, for example, "to meet state and federal particulate matter air quality standards").

The full notice regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report follows below. Look for a copy of the DEIR at www.ladwp.com/envnotices--and read carefully. Comments are due by fax or regular mail March 18, 2013, so if you don't have a fax machine, plan to finish your comments early.


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Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Owens Lake Phase 7a Dust Control Measures Project (SCH #2011051068)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) for consideration of the Owens Lake Phase 7a Dust Control Measures Project. LADWP is the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Project Location: The 110 square-mile dry Owens Lake is located in Inyo County, California, approximately 5 miles south of the community of Lone Pine and approximately 61 miles south of the city of Bishop. Owens Dry Lake is bounded by State Route (SR) 136 to the north and east, SR 190 to the south, and U.S. Highway (U.S.) 395 to the west.

Project Description: The City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is currently implementing the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program (OLDMP) on Owens Dry Lake in order to reduce exceedances of the state and federal particulate matter (PM10) air quality standards. LADWP constructs and operates dust control measures (DCMs) on the lake in compliance with Agreements with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) under the authority of California Health & Safety Code Sec. 42316, legal settlement agreements with GBUAPCD, lease agreements for use of state lands, and other regulatory approvals. The original Phase 7a project would expand and modify the existing system of dust control on the lake by installation of Best Available Control Measures (BACM) (Gravel Cover, Shallow Flooding and Managed Vegetation) on 3.1 square miles of area identified as emissive by GBUAPCD. In addition, 3 to 4 square miles of existing Shallow Flooding dust control areas (DCAs) will be transitioned to a hybrid dust control method using a combination of the three BACM to minimize dust while conserving water use on Owens Dry Lake.

Impacts of the Project: The Draft EIR found that implementation of the project may result in significant environment impacts to air quality; cultural resources; and biological resources. The analysis in this EIR indicates that the Phase 7a project as originally proposed (3.1 square miles of dust control) would have significant irreversible impacts on unique cultural resources. Therefore, alternatives to the originally proposed project have been evaluated including an Avoidance Alternative which would protect significant cultural resources.

Hazardous Waste Disclosure
Per Section 15087 (c)(6) of the CEQA Guidelines, the proposed project is not on any of the lists enumerated under Section 65962.5 of the California Government Code.

Public Review of the Draft EIR: The public review period for the Draft EIR will commence on Friday, February 1, 2013 and conclude on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. A copy of the Draft EIR will also be posted atwww.ladwp.com/envnotices. Copies of the Draft EIR are available for review at LADWP or the following locations:

LADWP Bishop Office, 300 Mandich Street, Bishop, CA
Bishop Library, 210 Academy Ave, Bishop, CA
Lone Pine Library, Corner of Washington & Bush Streets, Lone Pine, CA
Inyo County Library Big Pine Branch, 500 S. Main St., Big Pine, CA
Inyo County Library Independence Branch, 168 N. Edwards St., Independence, CA 93526
Cerro Coso Community College Library, 3000 College Heights Blvd., Ridgecrest, CA 93555


Public Meeting: LADWP will hold a public meeting to inform the public about the project and the findings of the draft EIR and provide an opportunity for agencies, organizations, and interested individuals to provide comments on the adequacy of the document. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm at the LADWP Sulfate Facility, 111 Sulfate Road, Training/Conference Room, Keeler, California 93530.

During the public review period, written comments concerning he adequacy of the Draft EIR may be submitted. Comments must be submitted by Monday, March 18, 2013. Please submit your comments to the following address:
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
111 North Hope Street, Room 1044
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Attention: Laura Hunter

Comments may also be faxed to Ms. Laura Hunter at (213) 367-4710.

If you require additional information, please contact Ms. Laura Hunter at (213) 367-4096.
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Contacts:  Phone:

2/8/2013 Idle No More picketing of LA Aqueduct Centennial commemoration 
On Friday, Feb 8., 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm, the Eastern California Museum in Independence will host Los Angeles members of the Inyo LA Standing Committee for a centennial commemoration of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. In front of the Eastern California Museum a nonviolent protest by Idle No More, a Native American activist group, will share through posters, song and dancing that the Los Angeles aqueduct has created an injustice to the environment and people of the valley for the last 100 years. They are not an inclusive group and would welcome anyone who is willing to participate in solidarity with them.
Contacts:  Phone:

3/2/2012 Ripples: news in brief from the Owens Valley Committee 
SUCTION DREDGING: Under new regulations, Inyo and Mono waters may be hosed

In a state where water has inspired more claim jumping than gold, you might expect suction dredging--and associated resuspension of mercury and other toxic compounds, the potential introduction of pipe-clogging invasive species, disturbance of special-status bird species, and disturbance of recreational fishing areas--to enjoy the same welcome as a family of skittish skunks. Nevertheless, suction dredging will soon be permitted across California. In Inyo and Mono counties, where suction dredging has never been allowed, sections of the Owens River, Lower Rock Creek, Bishop Creek, and Pine Creek are among new areas listed as being eligible for recreational dredging.

Public comments on the new regulations are due March 5. To see last year's Environmental Impact Report for the regulations or to learn more about this issue, see the DFG's suction dredging website at

http://www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge/

or see our April 29, 2011 article "Suction dredging may hit bottom in a watershed near you" at

http://www.ovcweb.org/item/OneNews.asp?qitemid=268

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THANK YOU: It's over, but we're still smiling

Many thanks to more than one hundred people who joined us for author and professor John Walton's lecture "Western Times and Water Wars," a fundraiser for the Owens Valley Committee. Dr. Walton reminded us that small communities, if they pull together, can wield almost mythical power, and he pointed out that activists in the Owens Valley water wars still inspire resistance against water colonialism across the nation. (See, for example, Snake Valley's resistance to Las Vegas' quest for groundwater at http://protectsnakevalley.com/water.html )

Thanks again to Dr. Walton for a fascinating and inspiring lecture. We hope to see everyone again soon.

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LADWP PLAYS POORLY WITH OTHERS

Testing the hypothesis that lawyers are cheaper than water, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) threw two legal temper tantrums recently on the East Side. In January, LADWP sued the Mammoth Community Water District with an argument that Los Angeles owns the rights to Mammoth Creek water (see http://www.sierrawave.net/10152/mammoth-community-water-district/ or, for an interesting spin on the spirit of cooperation, see LADWP's news release on the subject at http://www.ladwpnews.com/go/doc/1475/1268563/Mammoth-Community-Water-District-EIR-Challenged-by-LADWP ).

In February, LADWP followed up at the Owens Lake with a suit against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District in a tiff over whether Los Angeles is responsible for controlling ongoing dust pollution from the lakebed and over who should pay legal fees generated when LADWP disagrees with the Air Pollution Control District. For more information, see

http://www.sierrawave.net/10428/ladwp-launches-legal/ Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District

In related news, at an Inyo-Los Angeles Tech Group meeting in early February, LADWP and Inyo County were able to agree upon a partial list of what the two agencies disagree about. For example, LADWP does not agree with Inyo County that LADWP should apply for a permit to drill a new well in Inyo County, nor does Los Angeles agree that the Technical Group should be able to approve or deny new well construction, although Los Angeles and Inyo County ostensibly agreed to jointly manage groundwater pumping in Inyo County in 1991 under the terms of the Inyo/LA Long Term Water Agreement (see http://www.inyowater.org/Water_Resources/water_agreement/default.html ).


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LOWER OWENS RIVER PROJECT (LORP): Draft recreation plan released for public review

Those with strong opinions or simple curiosity about playful pursuits on or near the Lower Owens River can review the new draft version of the LORP Recreation Use Plan at

lowerowensriver.org

or in the LORP section of the Inyo County Water Department website at

www.inyowater.org

MIG, a recreation design firm, unveiled the plan at the most recent Inyo-Los Angeles Standing Committee meeting February 24 in Independence.

For more information about the plan, please contact mitigation manager Larry Freilich at the Inyo County Water Department (760-878-0011).

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REMINDER: Check our website calendar for community water meetings

Due to the sheer number of water policy meetings in Inyo County and to the startling habits of one or two agencies to announce last-minute changes in the time or location of meetings, we've decided to post notices about public water policy meetings on our web site calendar rather than subjecting everyone to flurries of e-mail. If you'd like to check the time or location of Inyo County Water Commission meetings, Inyo-Los Angeles Tech Group meetings, Inyo-Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Group meetings, Inyo-Los Angeles Standing Committee meetings, or Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Governing Board meetings, please glance at the calendar posted on our home page (www.OVCweb.org). We'll try to post meeting times and locations there as soon as we know about them.



Contacts:  Phone:

12/15/2011 Metabolic Studio will match your donation 
Early this summer the Owens Valley Committee received a generous grant from the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation led by artist Lauren Bon.

The Studio has been active in the Lone Pine area for the past four years. Among other projects, they are currently working on a film about the history of extraction and exportation of silver and water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. Film locations include Cerro Gordo, Swansea, and the PPG site on the west side of Owens Lake. They have also initiated the IOU Garden in Lone Pine in partnership with master gardeners, community members, and DWP. Among other benefits the project builds enriched soil and distributes it to community members for their own gardens.

The Metabolic Studio has provided an initial grant of $50,000, plus a 1:1 matching grant of another $50,000. The grant is for general operating support to further the OVC mission to seek long-term protection, restoration, and sustainable management of lands in the Owens Valley.

Funds that will be matched include contributions over the basic $25 annual membership and any other cash donations or grants. (In-kind support of goods or services will not be matched.) OVC has until June 30, 2012 to raise the matching funds, but the Metabolic Studio will provide the matching funds in $10,000 increments.

OVC has already received a $10,000 grant from another foundation that requested anonymity. With the Metabolic Studio match of this grant OVC is planning to add a part-time Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator, our first staff person ever to work on this important function.

We have until the end of next June to raise another $40,000 and receive the balance of the matching funds. Please consider making a donation to OVC that will help us reach this goal. It’s a rare opportunity to have your contribution nearly doubled.

Contacts:  Phone:

12/14/2011 OVC and DFG settle hatchery and stocking EIR lawsuit 
The Owens Valley Committee (OVC) and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) have reached a settlement in OVC's lawsuit challenging DFG's 2010 Environmental Impact Report for its statewide hatchery and stocking program.

When it filed the lawsuit in February 2010, OVC alleged that DFG's Environmental Impact Report failed to adequately examine past, current, and future impacts on Owens Valley springs and alkali meadows from groundwater pumping to supply fish hatcheries at Black Rock and Fish Springs in the Owens Valley. DFG leases the land for the hatcheries from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

"The agreement is consistent with DFG's commitment to balance the diversified use of fish and wildlife for the benefit of the larger public," said Donald Mooney, OVC's attorney, "but it also protects habitat in the Owens Valley and ensures the survival of species and natural communities in this very unique region of California."

The Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries began operations in 1941 and 1952, respectively, to supply trout for the DFG stocking program in Inyo and Mono counties. Back then, both hatcheries relied on large, on-site natural springs for their water supplies. Records from 1936 to 1959 reported an average flow volume of approximately 8,000 acre-feet of water per year at Blackrock Springs. Approximately 16,400 acre-feet per year flowed from Fish Springs. The two hatcheries used natural spring flows for their operations until approximately 1970, when LADWP began large-scale groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley to supply its second aqueduct. Los Angeles had already installed large production wells in the vicinity of the two hatcheries as part of the second aqueduct project.

The production wells supplied the hatcheries with significantly more water than the springs did: an average of approximately 13,000 acre-feet per year at Blackrock and 24,000 acre-feet per year at Fish Springs. Combined pumping for the two hatcheries now comprises between 40 and 60 percent of all groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley every year, and nearly all of the water that flows through those hatcheries is then discharged to the Los Angeles Aqueduct for export. Not surprisingly, the hatchery production wells dried the springs at both hatcheries and have kept them dry.

The hatchery supply wells are exempt from on-off provisions of the Inyo/Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement–provisions meant to avoid environmental impacts to the Owens Valley from groundwater pumping–because they are now the sole source of water for the hatcheries.

During recent settlement discussions, OVC learned that LADWP had conferred with DFG before installing the production wells that dried up the springs. DFG redesigned and rebuilt the two hatcheries in order to use groundwater from those wells. Neither of these facts was discussed in DFG's 2010 hatchery and stocking Environmental Impact Report or in a 1991 Environmental Impact Report that addressed the effects of pumping groundwater and diverting additional surface water to supply Los Angeles' second Owens Valley aqueduct.

Coincidentally, the change in the two hatcheries' water supply from the springs' natural flows to groundwater pumping took place in 1970, which is also when the California Environmental Quality Act took effect. However, DFG did not conduct an analysis of the change in water supply for its Owens Valley hatcheries or for its other statewide hatchery and stocking programs as required by CEQA until the Sacramento County Superior court ordered it to do so in 2007. Even then, DFG's Final Environmental Impact Report on the hatchery and stocking program, issued in 2010, only examined effects of ongoing pumping with regard to a 2004 to 2008 baseline period. OVC challenged the 2010 report on the basis that the DFG should have examined environmental impacts that occurred since 1970, when the California Environmental Quality Act took effect and the hatcheries began to be supplied with pumped groundwater, rather than only those impacts that have occurred after the arbitrary 2004-2008 baseline. OVC also alleged that DFG should adequately examine foreseeable impacts of continued pumping to supply the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries.

The settlement agreement provides for DFG to identify a groundwater pumping limit at Black Rock Hatchery no greater than 8,000 acre-feet per year, the approximate amount of the springs' original flow. Although that is a reduction from the current pumping average of 12,000 to 13,000 acre-feet per year, DFG deems the amount adequate to supply hatchery fish production. DFG has also agreed to support a modification of the current “exempt” status for the two Black Rock hatchery supply wells to limit the pumping exemption to 8,000 acre-feet per year.

Because DFG receives hatchery water from and leases the hatchery and associated wells and pumps from LADWP, these modifications will be subject to LADWP's approval. The settlement agreement therefore provides for the DFG, by January 2012, to present a proposal to LADWP that addresses potential environmental benefits of reduced pumping and to modify the existing hatchery supply wells, at DFG’s cost, to enable the limits on pumping. The proposal will also include a plan to maintain historic fish production levels in the Eastern Sierra to accommodate for any reduced fish production due to reduced groundwater pumping at Black Rock.
The settlement also provides for work at Fish Springs, allowing collaboration between the DFG and OVC to conduct an impact analysis in the Big Pine well field at the Fish Springs Hatchery.

“The primary goal of this effort is to try to determine changes to groundwater levels and vegetation both before and after the Inyo/LA Long Term Water Agreement ‘baseline period’ of 1984-1986,” explained Mark Bagley, OVC’s President and Policy Director. The joint analysis will evaluate the potential of allowing water leaving the Fish Springs Hatchery to infiltrate into soils in the Big Pine well field and examine whether or not such infiltration might improve groundwater levels.

If the OVC and the DFG conclude that groundwater infiltration is feasible and would have substantial positive effects on groundwater levels in the Big Pine well field, the DFG will work with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to develop a plan to increase infiltration. That plan may include water detention basins, re-injection of water, wetland treatment areas, and/or reconfiguration of the Fish Springs Hatchery’s settling ponds. The OVC has agreed not to seek pumping restrictions below the current 25,000 acre-feet per year pumping capacity at Fish Springs Hatchery during the evaluation period.

“Our objectives in bringing the lawsuit have been met with this settlement,” Bagley wrote in a statement discussing the lawsuit. “....[N]othing seems to move very fast, but...we believe we will see some changes for the better.”

Contacts:  Phone:

7/6/2011 Inyo County challenges Los Angeles groundwater pumping plan 
(Excerpted from a County of Inyo Press release)

The County of Inyo has initiated legal action requesting that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reduce the amount of groundwater LADWP plans to pump from the Owens Valley during the next 12 months.

Under the terms of the 1991 Long-Term Water Agreement between the County and Los Angeles, LADWP produces an annual Owens Valley operations and pumping plan. The County initiated the legal action under the Agreement by providing written notice to Los Angeles of a challenge to the amount of groundwater pumping included in the plan.

LADWP’s planned pumping of 91,000 acre-feet of groundwater from the valley is the highest level of groundwater pumping by LADWP since 1989. By reducing the amount of groundwater pumping planned by less than ten percent, the City of Los Angeles could avoid a potentially costly legal battle with Inyo County.

The Chairperson of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, Susan Cash, notes that this year’s high snowpack and runoff in the Eastern Sierra can be used to both help repair environmental damage from drought and previous pumping and still supply the City of Los Angeles with about 70 percent of its drinking water needs. With the expected runoff this year at 150 percent of normal, even with the County’s proposed reduction LADWP would still export about 380,000 acre-feet of water from the Eastern Sierra via the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

In February 2011 the Inyo County Water Department released an analysis showing significant negative impacts to vegetation in an area located a few miles north of Independence. The impacts resulted from groundwater pumping and surface water management activities of Los Angeles. The County’s challenge seeks to reduce groundwater pumping that affects this area. Reducing planned pumping would raise the water table under the impacted area, which should avoid further decreases and changes in vegetation and promote vegetation recovery.

“While we are confident our scientific analysis of these well fields is credible and pumping in them should be reduced on the available scientific evidence,” Cash said, “the larger question is whether the leaders in Los Angeles will be willing to work with Inyo County cooperatively on this fairly simple issue.”

The County is asking the Inyo/Los Angeles Technical Group to reduce groundwater pumping from 17,200 to 12,800 acre-feet in the Thibaut-Sawmill wellfield and from 14,000 to 10,000 acre-feet in the Taboose-Aberdeen wellfield in order to allow affected vegetation to recover in the vicinity of the Blackrock Fish Hatchery. The County is not seeking to reduce any groundwater pumping that supplies the fish hatchery.

When the County had the opportunity to comment on the proposed groundwater pumping plan, it recommended reducing overall pumping from the Owens Valley from 91,000 to 68,510 acre-feet. Despite the County’s comments, LADWP set the pumping amount at 91,000 acre-feet. The County’s current challenge focuses on the area of impacted vegetation and would reduce pumping levels in the Owens Valley by 8,400 acre-feet, from 91,000 to 82,600 acre-feet.

The Board of Supervisors expressed the intention to continue to pursue a positive working relationship with the City of Los Angeles but, in the interest of the people of Inyo County, chose this time to exercise the County’s rights under the Long-Term Water Agreement to protect the environment of the valley. Should the Technical Group be unable to resolve the dispute, the matter will proceed to the Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee, a body composed of elected and appointed officials from the County and Los Angeles. If the Standing Committee does not resolve the dispute, the dispute will be resolved through mediation/arbitration or by the Superior Court.
Contacts:  Kevin Carunchio or Bob Harrington phone 760-878-0292 or 760-878-0001 Phone:

4/29/2011 Suction dredging may hit bottom in a watershed near you 
This March, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) released a Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) assessing California's (currently suspended) Suction Dredge Permitting Program. Comments from the public regarding the document and proposed amendments to suction dredging regulations are due by 5 p.m. April 29, 2011.

A suction dredge is essentially a supersized underwater vacuum cleaner that recreational miners use to suck up material from river bottoms, stream beds, or lake beds. The vacuum removes river bottom or lake bed sediment via a large hose, passes the material through a recovery or separation system that extracts gold and other heavy materials, and then spews remaining material back into the stream, river or lake.

The California legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a temporary halt to suction dredging in August 2009 out of concern for the state's salmon runs. The Draft SEIR addresses potential environmental effects of the permitting program, which was suspended pending completion of the review, and proposes amendments to the pre-moratorium regulations. Before the moratorium, the California DFG issued an average of approximately 3,200 suction dredging permits per year in the state of California.

In addition to proposing a revised program, the document also evaluates the potential impacts of four alternatives: a No Program Alternative (continuation of the existing moratorium), a 1994 Regulations Alternative (continuation of previous regulations in effect prior to the 2008 moratorium), a Water Quality Alternative (which would include additional program restrictions for water bodies listed as impaired for sediment and mercury pursuant to the Clean Water Act, section 303(d)), and a Reduced Intensity Alternative (which would include greater restrictions on permit issuance and methods of operation to reduce the intensity of environmental effects).

The document also acknowledges some of the significant and unavoidable impacts of suction dredging, which include discharges of mercury into water downstream, resuspension and discharge of other potentially toxic materials, and unavoidable disturbance of riparian wildlife, including special-status bird species.

The Draft SEIR and supporting documents are now available on the DFG website at

www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge

and can be provided upon request by calling (530) 225-2275. Copies of the Draft SEIR are also available for review at DFG regional offices including:

Region 1 601 Locust St., Redding
Region 2 1701 Nimbus Road, Suite A, Rancho Cordova
Region 3 7329 Silverado Trail, Napa
Region 4 1234 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno
Region 5 4949 Viewridge Ave., San Diego
Region 6 3602 Inland Empire Blvd., Suite C-220, Ontario
Region 6 4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite J, Los Alamitos (second location)
Region 7 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey HQ 1807 13th St., Suite 104, Sacramento


Written comments will also be accepted through April 29, 2011 at 5 p.m. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to dfgsuctiondredge@dfg.ca.gov or by regular mail to:

Mark Stopher
California Department of Fish and Game
601 Locust St.
Redding, CA 96001

Comments received by the due date will be included in the final SEIR to be prepared for the Director of DFG.

For more information about the suction dredge program, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge/. If you need a copy of the Draft SEIR in an alternate format, please contact the Suction Dredge Program at (530) 225-2275 or the California Relay (Telephone) Service for the deaf or hearing-impaired from TDD phones at 1-800-735-2929 or 711.




Contacts:  Phone:

2/10/2010 OVC challenges California DFG's Hatchery and Stocking EIR 
Sacramento, California--The Owens Valley Committee (OVC) filed a lawsuit February 9 against the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) challenging the adequacy of DFG’s Hatchery and Stocking Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR). OVC’s lawsuit focuses on the group's concerns about the effects of groundwater pumping used to supply DFG’s Black Rock Rearing Ponds and Fish Springs Hatchery, both located in the Owens Valley.

“Our concern is with the overpumping to supply the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities," said OVC board member Mark Bagley. "Those facilities operated for decades on natural spring flows. Since excessive groundwater pumping by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power dried up the natural springs in the early 1970s, groundwater pumping has supplied those facilities. The annual average pumping since 1973 to supply the facilities has exceeded the prior natural spring flows by more than 6,000 acre-feet per year at each facility." He added that there are no data to suggest that the excess flows to the hatchery facilities have provided for increased hatchery production.

"The data, however, do demonstrate that the excessive pumping has significant environmental effects," Bagley said. "We’re certainly not trying to shut down the hatcheries--they play an important role in the local economy and in DFG’s statewide hatchery program. However, we believe that pumping to supply the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities can be reduced to the levels the natural spring flows used to provide without much effect on hatchery operations and with the effect of mitigating the impacts that excessive pumping has had and continues to have.”

Water that flows through the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatchery facilities flows directly into the Los Angeles aqueduct system and is exported to Los Angeles.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that the Final EIR identify significant environmental effects of the project so that measures to mitigate or avoid those effects or alternatives that avoid those effects can be devised. The EIR failed to meet requirements of CEQA for disclosure, analysis and mitigation of significant project impacts.

The Draft EIR proposed a mitigation measure that would have significantly reduced the pumping at Black Rock. OVC representatives were surprised and disappointed that the Final EIR eliminated that measure.

The OVC lawsuit raises four main points and seeks a determination by the Court that the certification of the EIR is invalid and void because it fails to meet the requirements and guidelines of CEQA:

1. The EIR uses an inadequate and impermissible baseline by which to determine whether DFG’s hatchery program has significant environmental effects. Because it uses a 2004-2008 baseline, the EIR determines that only impacts above and beyond the impacts during the 2004-2008 period will be significant. When the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities were established there were thousands of acre-feet per year flowing from the springs that fed the hatcheries. Now pumping for the hatcheries and other uses far exceed the original springs flows and have dried up the springs. However, by using the 2004-2008 baseline, DFG concludes that these impacts are insignificant because they occurred prior to the 2004-2008 baseline period. This baseline is inadequate because it disregards decades of impacts without any CEQA analysis. CEQA became law in 1970, yet this is the first CEQA analysis on the hatchery program.

2. The EIR fails to provide an adequate analysis of the Project’s impacts, and fails to provide sufficient detail regarding the foreseeable impacts that will arise from continued groundwater pumping to supply the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities. Even using 2004-2008 as the environmental baseline, continued operation of the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities will continue to lower the groundwater table and have groundwater impacts that are not analyzed or mitigated in the EIR.

3. The EIR failed to include feasible alternatives to the Project that were presented to DFG. Such alternatives included a groundwater monitoring plan that allows for reducing groundwater pumping for the Fish Springs and Black Rock facilities as needed to allow groundwater levels and groundwater-dependent alkali meadows to be restored. This alternative would mitigate significant environmental effects caused by groundwater pumping to supply the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities that have occurred since the 1970s and continue to occur. Another alternative included limiting groundwater extractions at Black Rock to 8,000 acre-feet annually. This alternative was included in the Draft EIR, but omitted from the Final EIR.

4. Prior to approving the Project, DFG failed to adequately consider some of the public comments submitted during the environmental review process. The responses to comments in the Final EIR fail to meet the requirements of CEQA in that they neither adequately dispose of all the issues raised, nor provide specific rationale for rejecting suggested Project changes, mitigation measures, or alternatives.

The Final Hatchery EIR, which is the first CEQA analysis ever done on the hatchery and stocking program and which was done under a court order, was certified and the project approved on January 11, 2010. Under CEQA any challenge to the EIR must be filed within 30 days.

The Owens Valley Committee is a non-profit citizen action group founded in 1984 and dedicated to the protection, restoration and sustainable management of water and land resources affecting the Owens Valley. This legal action was filed in the Sacramento County Superior Court since DFG headquarters are located in Sacramento.

Questions regarding the OVC’s lawsuit should be directed to OVC’s attorney, Don Mooney, at 530-758-2377.


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1/11/2010 LADWP holds Bishop meeting to discuss solar project 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will hold a public meeting

Monday, January 11, at 7 p.m.
at the United Methodist Church
(245 N. Fowler in Bishop, California)

to discuss preliminary plans for building one of the world's largest solar power generation facilities in the iconic Owens Valley.

LADWP Interim General Manager David Freeman, describing plans in general terms on a visit to Inyo County in December 2009, called the project a potential means for reducing dust pollution from the Owens Lake while generating cleaner power for Los Angeles, but added that he had not ruled out expansion of the project beyond the borders of the lake into agricultural or meadow zones along the valley floor. Because the project has great potential for a wide range of both positive and negative impacts both in and beyond the Owens Valley (for example, effects on climate change as well as the eastern Sierra's landscape, agriculture-and-tourism-based economy, and wildlife), we're posting this notice on our web site as a reminder for residents and friends of the Owens Valley to bring their questions, ideas, and concerns to the meeting so that project developers can develop a more coherent and inclusive plan.

If you'd like to discuss the project with others before the meeting, Eastern Sierra Land Trust (176 Home Street in Bishop) will be holding an open house Thursday, January 7, from 4 pm to 6 pm to share ideas and information and hold an informal discussion about the project.

To read more about the project in the Los Angeles Times, see:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-owens-lake18-2009dec18,0,4418512.story

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-owenslake2-2009dec02,0,1946554.story


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5/8/2009 Supervisors uphold permit for groundwater export project 
INDEPENDENCE--The Inyo County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 this Wednesday to uphold a permit for Coso Operating Company to pump and export groundwater from Rose Valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, in spite of concerns that pumping the valley's entire estimated annual average recharge would cause environmental problems similar to those experienced in the Owens Valley from groundwater mining.

The Conditional Use Permit for the project would allow Coso Operating Company to pump approximately 4,800 acre feet of water per year (approximately 3,000 gallons per minute) from the Hay Ranch in Rose Valley and to export the water for use in cooling its geothermal facility approximately nine miles away. Although the Inyo County Water Commission voted against approval of the project in January, Coso Operating Company announced soon after that Inyo County's tax revenues might be severely impacted due to a decrease in production if the company did not receive permission to proceed with the groundwater export project. The Inyo County Planning Commission voted to approve the project during a meeting this March.

The decision was immediately appealed by local residents and by proponents of Little Lake Ranch, a nearby hunting club and wildlife refuge, in part, they argued, because authors of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the pumping project defined up to a ten percent loss in water supply to Little Lake Ranch as insignificant, but did not thoroughly examine the effects that such a loss would have on the ranch's groundwater-fed lake, springs, and wetlands or on the wildlife that depends on that habitat. Those who argued against the project also pointed out, among other objections, that other more sustainable alternatives to cooling the facility with pumped water had not been examined adequately, that analyses of the effects of the project assumed normal or ideal water conditions but did not examine what might happen in an extended drought, and that, although the project would last only a maximum of thirty years, its effects on water tables were expected to last more than one hundred years.

The Board of Supervisors met Wednesday, May 6, 2009, to discuss the project, to allow public comment, and to make a final decision on whether or not to approve the permit for the project. The meeting began at 9 a.m. and ended at midnight with the Supervisors' 4-1 vote to uphold the permit.

Commenting on the Board's decision after the hearing, Gary Arnold, attorney for Little Lake Ranch, said that even if a monitoring and mitigation plan suggested by Inyo County is enforced, "Little Lake will still lose at least ten percent of its water inflows, which we believe will have a dramatic effect on the habitat and wildlife at Little Lake."

If you would like to learn more about this issue, the Owens Valley Committee has posted a list of links and documents regarding this project on the lower third of our reading room page at http://www.ovcweb.org/LInks/Referencedesk.html


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1/17/2009 Hay Ranch groundwater pumping: extracting the effects of water transfers 
Last Monday, January 12, the Inyo County Water Commission met to discuss the Coso Hay Ranch Water Extraction and Delivery System project permit. What water commissioners heard concerned them so much that they have scheduled an additional meeting to discuss the issue Monday, January 26, 2009.

Under the terms of the permit, the Coso Operating Company would extract groundwater from two wells on the Hay Ranch in Rose Valley and transfer it to the Coso geothermal project at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station.

According to the project's Draft Environmental Impact Report, even in normal conditions, the project "would have a significant impact on water availability at Little Lake Ranch" nearby, an avian refuge and recreational hunting area that depends entirely upon groundwater to supply its lake, springs, and wetlands. Effects of the project in drier conditions were apparently not modeled. Project managers define a loss of ten percent of the groundwater supply to Little Lake Ranch--and consequent effects on wetlands there--as being acceptable. Owners and advocates of Little Lake Ranch and its environs disagree.

The extraction project would last thirty years; however, the effects of the project would last at least 100 years after the project's end, according to Gary Arnold, an attorney for and member of Little Lake Ranch. Arnold is also concerned about the stifling effect the project would have on any other businesses in the area because the project essentially consumes all of the valley's estimated annual water recharge in the best conditions.

"Coso’s Project will deprive other commercial enterprises and the future residents of Rose Valley of vital water resources, solely because the Project overdrafts the Rose Valley aquifer by pumping more water than is naturally recharged," Mr. Arnold wrote in a recent letter to Inyo County Water Commissioners. "....At least two companies have proposed additional geothermal explorations in the vicinity of Coso, including Deep Rose, both of which will need some water. The FEIR does not address these cumulative impacts because it asserts that the future projects are speculative. Coso’s Project will deplete water resources, making future development in Rose Valley impractical, if not impossible."

These and other concerns raised about the project prompted the water commissioners to meet again to discuss possible actions and alternatives. The meeting agenda follows below.

If you would like to learn more, we've posted links to documents and comments about this issue in the OVC reading room at:

http://www.ovcweb.org/LInks/Referencedesk.html


INYO COUNTY WATER COMMISSION MEETING

Monday, January 26, 2009, 6:00 p.m.
Board of Supervisors Room, County Administrative Center

224 North Edwards
Independence, California

-AGENDA-

The public will be offered the opportunity to comment on each agenda item prior to any action on the item by the Water Commission or, in the absence of action, prior to the Commission moving to the next item on the agenda. The public will also be offered the opportunity to address the Commission on any matter within the Commission’s jurisdiction prior to adjournment of the meeting.

1. Pledge of Allegiance

2. Continuation from Water Commission meeting of January 12, 2009: Consideration of recommendation to Planning Commission regarding Conditional Use Permit #2007-3/Coso Operating Co. LLC, Hay Ranch Water Extraction and Delivery System

a. Presentation by Coso Operating Company

b. Public comment

c. Consideration of recommendations to Planning Commission

3. Public Comment

4. Adjourn
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11/18/2008 On the agenda: Owens Lake 
The Owens Lake is on next week's agenda for the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors has invited Ted Schade of GBUAPCD to give a presentation on Owens Lake dust control measures at 10:30 a.m., November 18, 2008 (see item #16 on the Board agenda at http://www.countyofinyo.org/Board_of_Supervisors/Agenda/2008-11-18.pdf). Specifically, the Board of Supervisors will be discussing the cost of water used for dust control measures at Owens Lake.

Although water once flowed into the lake from the Owens River, the lake became "possibly the greatest or most intense human-disturbed dust source on earth" (Hinkley, U.S. Geological Survey) after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) diverted the lower Owens River to the Los Angeles aqueduct in 1913. Windblown dust from the lakebed--a toxic cocktail of arsenic, cadmium, nickel, and sulfates--has been found across the West.

A 1999 Memorandum of Agreement with GBUAPCD, a 2003 State Implementation Plan, and an additional 2006 agreement between GBUAPCD and LADWP require Los Angeles to implement dust control measures on the lakebed in order to meet federal air quality standards, a goal for which the most recent deadline is 2010.

To date, Los Angeles has met most of those requirements with shallow flooding for dust control measures, but the agency could, in theory, greatly reduce shallow flooding on the lakebed in favor of other approved dust control methods--vegetation or gravel--as long as emissions from the lakebed comply with federal air quality standards. LADWP is also investigating a method of dust control known as "moat and row"--a method which would not require water--for its effectiveness in controlling lakebed dust.

Since the initiation of shallow flooding dust control measures in 2001, the lake (a stopover for millions of migratory waterfowl before water diversions) has become a significant migratory stopover once again. Mike Prather, a longtime member of the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society and the Owens Valley Committee, noted that during an April 2008 "Big Day" bird counting event, 49 volunteer birders observed 112 species and a total of at least 46,650 birds--including black-bellied and snowy plovers, western and least sandpipers, and long-billed curlews--at the Owens Lake. During a smaller "Big Day" event in August, 13 volunteers recorded 42,754 birds of 71 different species--including white-faced ibis, American avocets, and red-necked phalaropes--patronizing dust control areas.

"No one argues on the need to use water responsibly at Owens Lake," Prather said. "The dollar cost to replace that water through outright purchases or for the cleanup of polluted aquifers in Los Angeles is significant. However, my concern, as a supporter of wildlife, is that the 'opportunity to balance' the needs of wildlife at Owens Lake--a California public trust--and the needs of water for Los Angeles must not be missed. The enormous wildlife population at Owens Lake was lost 80 years ago and shouldn't be allowed to be lost a second time."
Contacts:  Phone:

2/15/2008 For Valentine's Day, Lower Owens carries LA mayor away 
OWENS RIVER INTAKE, INYO COUNTY, CA--Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa let the Lower Owens River sweep him off his feet Wednesday, February 13.

After presiding over a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the first artificial seasonal habitat flow since the river's official rewatering in December 2006, the mayor climbed into a yellow canoe and rowed gently downstream. Many others joined him in a small celebratory flotilla, including Mark Bagley, local Sierra Club representative, and David Nahai, new DWP general manager, who sat elbow-to-elbow at the bow of a drift boat.

The Lower Owens River Project partly mitigates environmental damage from groundwater pumping from 1970 to 1990. Yearly seasonal habitat flows--including this, the first for the newly rewatered river--are meant to imitate natural flooding by redistributing muck from the river bottom, helping to distribute and germinate seeds from riparian vegetation such as willows and cottonwood, and recharging groundwater tables in the flood plain, among other purposes.

Several speakers at the ceremony wryly acknowledged that mitigation projects for Los Angeles' water exports from the Owens Valley have often been a labor of law more than a labor of love.

"We recognize that Los Angeles was a desert before we came to the Owens Valley and that the Owens Valley was an oasis," the mayor said. "....Today we say we're going to share the prosperity....We're here to be the neighbors we should have been one hundred years ago."

"We've done this together," said David Nahai, who served on the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners before becoming LADWP's new general manager in December 2007. "....While the past is immutable, the future is there for anyone to change."

That future is still written in water. Although the Lower Owens River Project partly mitigates groundwater pumping damage from 1970-1990, damage to the Owens Valley from ongoing groundwater pumping is still a source of conflict. In spite of joint groundwater management agreements, Los Angeles' average yearly groundwater pumping exceeded sustainable levels until 2005, when a court order temporarily reduced Los Angeles' groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley until minimum flows in the river were well established.

Inyo County and Los Angeles are still negotiating the terms by which groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley will be managed to avoid additional environmental impacts. Desertification and damage to the valley's groundwater-dependent meadows are a deep and ongoing concern. And, as Owens Valley Committee president Carla Scheidlinger noted during the habitat flow ceremony, the Lower Owens River Project's degree of success will rest on an as-yet-to-be-determined monitoring and adaptive management plan for the river.

Habitat flows to the Lower Owens will be ramped up slowly during a seven-day period from the river's base flow of 40 cubic feet per second to approximately 200 cubic feet per second at the Aqueduct Intake by about February 20. A peak flow of 200 cubic feet per second will be maintained for 24 hours, and then flows will slowly drop again by about 20 percent per day to the 40 cubic feet per second base flow. Increased flows will take approximately two weeks to travel down the river to the Alabama Gates area, where flows will then be supplemented to maintain a 200 cfs flow for several days in the Lower Owens River below the Alabama Spill Gate.
Contacts:  Ceal Klingler webmaster@ovcweb.org Phone:

12/12/2007 Deaton retires, and Nahai takes the helm 
The Los Angeles City Council has confirmed H. David Nahai's appointment as new general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Mayor Villaraigosa announced his appointment of Nahai, who served as a Board of Water and Power commissioner for two years, this October, after Los Angeles Department of Water and Power general manager Ron Deaton announced that he would be retiring from his position in December. Nahai's appointment required approval by the City Council.

Deaton, who worked with the City of Los Angeles for 42 years, made a reluctant decision to retire after several months of medical leave with heart problems.

"The challenges over the last several months are surpassed only by the difficult decision to retire from service in the City I hold so dear," Deaton wrote in a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "....Most recently, it was a distinct pleasure to focus my energies at the place where my City Service began--The Department of Water and Power."

Nahai has visited the Owens Valley several times to consider local water policy issues during his service as a DWP commissioner, and has garnered a reputation locally for detailed knowledge of the issues and for a patient--but wary--ear for residents' comments and questions.

He has gained a reputation for pithy and humorous observations as well, such as his rewording of William Mulholland's 1913 speech regarding the diversion of the Owens River.

"There it is," Nahai said at the Owens River rewatering ceremony in 2006. "Take it back."

--Ceal Klingler

Contacts:  Phone:

7/13/2007 In brief: Standing Committee meeting summary 
BISHOP--The Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee, a group of appointed representatives from Inyo County and Los Angeles created to jointly manage groundwater policy in the Owens Valley, met Monday to discuss Green Book revisions, the Lower Owens River Project, upcoming responsibilities, and mitigation projects. The meeting flowed quickly with only one snag and a mostly warm current that Los Angeles Water Commissioner David Nahai attributed, with a wry smile, to members' efforts "to introduce a modicum of trust."

In brief:

* Green Book: No formal revisions have been drafted yet for the Green Book--a technical appendix to the 1991 Long Term Water Agreement that sets forth protocols for monitoring of water tables and management of groundwater pumping (see endnote 1)--but suggested revisions will likely involve hydrologic aspects of ON/OFF triggers for wells, evaluation of exempt wells, groundwater mining (and hopefully the prevention thereof), and testing of new wells.

* Lower Owens River Project: In measurements taken last week, water flows in the river averaged well above 40 cubic feet per second at all of the monitoring stations except the pumpback station. As hoped, riparian vegetation is quickly greening the banks of the river channel.

* Standing Committee responsibilities: In years when runoff is less than average, the Standing Committee will need to approve water releases to the Blackrock Waterfowl Area and will also need to approve the amount of water (if any) dedicated to the yearly Lower Owens River seasonal habitat flow.

* Presentation of projects from the ad hoc group: The 1997 Memorandum of Understanding stipulates, among other requirements, that LADWP must complete a number of environmental mitigation projects for which the total water allotment would be approximately 1600 acre feet per year. Although a project at Hines Spring is required, the nature and location of other mitigation projects are somewhat flexible.

Tom Brooks of Inyo County Water Department and Carla Scheidlinger of the Owens Valley Committee presented a list of potential mitigation projects negotiated by an ad hoc group of representatives from ICWD, LADWP, Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, California DFG, the Inyo County Agricultural Commssioner, and the ranching community. The group selected potential projects that would, among other criteria, require very little or no MOU or Stipulation and Order modification, require no new wells that might be misinterpreted as potential new production wells, and that would not return additional flow to the river (and hence to the LA aqueduct). Six potential projects throughout the valley met these and other criteria and include projects to:
-return water to the historic channels of Freeman Creek
-develop riparian and aquatic habitat in the Hines Creek/Aberdeen Ditch area
-create ponds or wetland/riparian vegetation in the Hines Spring area
-create spring-type habitat southeast of Independence
-create spring-type habitat north of Mazourka Canyon Road
-deliver the balance of mitigation water to Warren Lake.

*Public comments: The Standing Committee invited a member of the public to make scheduled but not publicly agendized comments following the LORP update regarding the effects of the first river flushing/seasonal habitat flow on his ranch's grazing schedule. During these comments, the Standing Committee began to discuss potential ways of changing the timing or volume of the flow. Confusion ensued among both the Committee members and the audience regarding timing of public comments and formal meeting and decision rules. The Standing Committee then decided to allow public comments following each of the remaining agenda items. Comments from the public included comments 1) urging the Committee to schedule a public discussion and to consider the rationale for the first flushing flow/seasonal habitat flow before considering changing the management of the LORP; 2) praise for the ad hoc process; and 3) a request to consider certain policy changes in groundwater management.

Daniel Pritchett of the Bristlecone chapter of the California Native Plant Society suggested that the Standing Committee set benchmarks, deadlines, and goals for the Technical Group, that Technical Group meetings should be tape recorded to solve the question of how to get accurate information to the public regarding the content of those meetings, and that rather than pumping additional groundwater to mitigate for groundwater pumping damage at Big Seeley Springs and other areas in the valley, the Standing Committee should first consider whether those mitigation projects violate an overriding requirement of the Long Term Water Agreement to avoid further significant impacts. Mr. Pritchett also submitted additional written comments, which we have posted on the Owens Valley Committee website as a PDF (see endnote 2). In response, Los Angeles Commissioner David Nahai agreed that a Technical Group timeline should be established and that Los Angeles would ask the city attorney to evaluate whether prevention (i.e., avoidance of damage) was a higher legal priority than remediation.

(1) To see a PDF of the 1990 Green Book, which is not in fact green but which has appeared in the real world with a green paper cover, see www.inyowater.org/Water_Resources/Green%20Book%202000.PDF

(2) Links to download Mr. Pritchett's comments and a related cover letter from the Bristlecone chapter of the CNPS are posted under "Ripples" on the OVC home page at www.OVCweb.org

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5/23/2007 A first descent: Lower Owens floats their boats 
In a celebration of the river's renewed existence, nine people kayaked and canoed approximately the northmost five miles of the Lower Owens this April in what was likely the first boat descent in nearly a century.

Until a rewatering ceremony December 6, 2006, the southern sixty miles of the Owens River had been mostly a memory and an empty riverbed since 1913, when Los Angeles diverted the river into the first Los Angeles aqueduct. Plans for a river resurrection surfaced in the 1980s and 1990s, when Los Angeles lost a series of court battles over impacts to the Owens Valley from excessive groundwater pumping and from exports via a second aqueduct. Eventually the city agreed to partly restore the Lower Owens River as partial mitigation for thirty years of groundwater pumping damage, but the project stalled in its planning stages.

In 2005, a judge ordered Los Angeles to, among other measures, begin flows to the river by January 2007 or risk losing the use of its second Owens Valley aqueduct. Flows began in winter 2006, and Los Angeles announced in February 2007 that flows had reached required levels throughout the river. Speculation about floating the river inevitably followed--or rather, led.

The river explorers met obstacles, of course: chain link fence, tules, tamarisk stumps. But they persevered.

“In some cases we could squeeze by, next to a bank, either paddling with great difficulty or walking on the bottom and pulling the boats,” wrote Frank Colver, an Owens Valley Committee member, in a recent account of the descent. “....In many cases the water was so deep where we needed to push a path through the tules that we could not use our feet on the bottom for traction. Instead, we would sort of lie down or walk on our knees being supported by the floating refuse of dead tules.”

Colver is fairly certain he and other expedition members--Gary, Karla, and Jessamyn Peebles; Nathan and Mike Piehl; Mel Herlin; Sylvia Stevenson; and Russ Brown--can claim the title of first descent of the newly restored river. “We did not see any evidence of anyone having broken a boat path through the tules,” he wrote. “It looked untouched (it doesn’t any longer).”

The trip breaks no records for longest, most difficult, or most remote. No one will sing love songs to the river's rapids, or extoll any holes, plunge pools, or dangerous deviousness--oxbows notwithstanding. What makes this river trip special is not the character of the river's water; it's the simple presence of water.

“It was a thrill for me to float over the new gauging station just above Black Rock Road," Colver wrote. "Last December 7 I walked over to it--[it was] only a trickle then--and stood there wondering if I would ever be able to find myself floating over it.”

The group took out at the east bank of the river at Black Rock Road, leaving further exploration for a time when the channel is less choked with vegetation.

For a while, the Lower Owens River Project wouldn't float. Now it does.

--Ceal Klingler
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3/13/2007 Judge rules lower Owens close, but no vacation 
MARCH 13, 2007--In a ruling issued late yesterday, Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee Cooper found that the Los Angeles Department of Water (DWP) has "proceeded with commendable diligence" in complying with a 2005 court order to rewater the lower Owens River, but that DWP isn't done yet.

"On the record before me, I cannot find that the City has complied with all of the conditions set forth," Cooper wrote. "....All means all, not just some of the conditions!"

Los Angeles diverted the lower Owens River to its first aqueduct in 1913. The river rewatering project, required as partial mitigation for environmental damage from Los Angeles' groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley from 1970 to 1990, had foundered for years until a lawsuit initiated by the Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club resulted in Judge Cooper's 2005 order.

In his 2005 ruling, Cooper issued an injunction that would stop Los Angeles' water exports via its second aqueduct if the City did not meet certain conditions by January and July of 2007. Among other measures, the court order required Los Angeles to pay $5,000 a day beginning September 5, 2005 and continuing until flows in the lower Owens had been fully implemented. The City was also required to begin flows to the lower Owens River by January 2007 and to implement flows of 40 cubic feet per second throughout the river by July 2007.

Los Angeles began flows into the lower Owens River in early December last year.

In late February, attorneys for the City submitted a request to Judge Cooper to vacate the injunction and lift the other conditions of the court order.

"LADWP is pleased to inform the Court and the parties that it has established permanent baseflows of approximately 40 c.f.s. throughout the Lower Owens River in compliance with the Court's Order.... nearly five months ahead of the compliance deadline," the City's attorneys wrote.

Judge Cooper, however, found that the City hadn't earned a vacation yet. The DWP had constructed only nine of 17 stations required for monitoring flows throughout the river and was unable to provide adequate data about the volume of the flows.

"Regrettably," the judge wrote, "given the history of the [Lower Owens River Project], a certain level of skepticism by the other parties about DWP's representations is understandable, particularly when required monitoring stations have not been provided and the additional flow data that would have been generated is not available."

Nevertheless, the judge continued, he looked forward to Los Angeles' fulfillment of all of the conditions of his order, which would allow him to "declare the Lower Owens to be a river again."

--Ceal Klingler

Contacts:  Phone:

12/7/2006 At last, water rejoins the lower Owens River 
LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT INTAKE, INYO COUNTY, CA--At the flick of a toggle, water flowed into the lower Owens River Wednesday afternoon, December 6.

Although the water flowed from the same Los Angeles aqueduct intake that diverted the Owens River more than ninety years ago, rather than directly from the upper Owens River, hundreds of people witnessed and cheered the small flow as a good first step in mending relations between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley.

The project, intended as partial mitigation for environmental damage from Los Angeles' groundwater pumping from 1970 to 1990, had remained in dry dock for years until Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee Cooper, Jr., ordered Los Angeles to initiate flows by late January 2007 or lose the use of its second aqueduct. The ruling resulted from a series of lawsuits initiated by the Sierra Club and the Owens Valley Committee--a local water-policy-oriented citizens' action group. Among other measures, Cooper ordered that Los Angeles temporarily reduce its groundwater pumping and pay a $5,000-a-day fee until flows in the lower Owens River reach a specified level.

"There it is. Take it back," said H. David Nahai, President of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners, before introducing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a ceremony to celebrate the initiation of flows. Nahai's audience, many of them Owens Valley residents, applauded his slight modification of the 1913 speech William Mulholland gave to San Fernando Valley residents after Mulholland had diverted the Owens River to the Los Angeles Aqueduct. ("There it is," Mulholland said originally. "Take it.")

"Like these waters behind us, we need to change course," said Villaraigosa. "....We have an historic obligation and an essential role to play." He spoke not only of the relationship between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley, but also of the role he hoped Los Angeles would someday achieve as one of the "cleanest and greenest" cities in the U.S.

"It's about damn time," observed a bystander.

Water reentered the river at a not atypically delicate juncture in relations between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley. Earlier in the week, the City and the Great Basin Air Pollution Control district finished renegotiating the conditions under which the City would control dust emissions from the Owens dry lake bed, which became the largest point source of particulate matter pollution in the United States after Los Angeles' surface water diversions.

Los Angeles' continued groundwater pumping remains a significant environmental concern in the Owens Valley. In spite of two high runoff years and a court order that temporarily reduced pumping, water tables have not recovered to levels set by a 1991 Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) established by the City and Inyo County, and alkali meadows in the valley have showed a steady decline over the last few decades. Many mitigation projects for previous groundwater pumping damage remain stalled. A few years ago, Los Angeles unilaterally suspended a Drought Recovery Policy instituted by Inyo and Los Angeles to allow groundwater tables in the Owens Valley to recover from low run-off years and avoid further environmental damage. Committee meetings between Inyo County and the City to coordinate joint water management policy under the terms of the 1991 LTWA ceased in 2003.

Those meetings, however, finally resumed last month--a signal from Villaraigosa's administration that the mayor hopes to stop the downward spiral in relations between Inyo County and Los Angeles.

Two leaders of local groups echoed that hope in their remarks at the rewatering ceremony.

"Cities in the American West, and indeed all over the world, are engaged in a struggle to obtain adequate water supplies for their burgeoning populations. And the struggle has often been bitter and wasteful," said Carla Scheidlinger, president of the Owens Valley Committee. The rewatering ceremony, she said, "marks what we 'watchers of the water' fervently hope is the beginning of a new era of cooperation with Los Angeles."

"The commencement of the Lower Owens River Project is a symbol of the hope we have for the future. It's a symbol of the improvement that's occurred in our working relationship with the city during the last nine months," said Mark Bagley, a longtime local Sierra Club leader who has also been instrumental in the negotiations and lawsuits surrounding Owens Valley water.

After the lower Owens River rewatering ceremony, once the crowd had cleared and the mayor had returned to Los Angeles, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) employee carefully reduced the water flow from the aqueduct to the river. The Los Angeles DWP has not yet completed work on the pumpback station that will return water from the southern end of the river to the Los Angeles aqueduct, where the water will resume its journey to Los Angeles. Until the pumpback station is ready, flows will be kept at minimal levels to prevent water from reaching the Owens Lake bed, where a different set of lawsuits have governed how much water goes where. Perhaps more important, as Water and Power Commissioner Mary Nichols noted dryly during the ceremony, "DWP releases no drop of water ahead of its time."
--Ceal Klingler

Contacts:  Phone:

11/30/2006 Mulholland Christmas Carol musical satire opens in LA 
The award winning musical satire "A Mulholland Christmas Carol" opened Nov. 24 in Los Angeles at the Sacred Fools Theater (660 Heliothrop). Shows are $25 Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 4PM. The show closes December 23.

Most of the cast from last year's show returns this year, and a new song has been added to the show.
Contacts:  Sacred Fools Theater prather@qnet.com Phone: 310.281.8337

11/30/2006 EPA backs down from threats to rural air standards at Mono and Owens lakes 
The federal Environmental Protection Agency in September decided not to gut rural dust control standards for Mono Lake and Owens Lake, in large part as the result of a huge public outcry. Many thanks to everyone who submitted comments, called, or encouraged others to protest the proposed changes. Go to www.monolake.org/airquality for details, or for details and comments on the plan, see "Reminder: EPA proposal leaves Owens Valley in the dust" in our news archives for 4/14/2006.)



Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5807

8/30/2006 Ad hoc meetings bring hope to mitigation process 
Reprinted from the Summer/Fall 2006 issue of the Rainshadow, OVC's bi-annual newsletter

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to which the OVC is a party, mandates that there be a total of 1600 acre-feet of water each year left in the Owens Valley for the creation of wetlands to mitigate for springs and seeps that were lost in the wake of groundwater pumping associated with the second aqueduct. Although three different consultants have presented plans for the use of this water, all the plans have violated some provision of the MOU and have left all parties with a great sense of frustration and doubt that any reasonable mitigations could be developed that would please us all.

The OVC took the unprecedented step of initiating an "ad hoc" process in an effort to get this important mitigation back on track. "Ad hoc" means that any decision the group reaches is not binding and that any participant can leave the process at any time without endangering the legal MOU process, which remains in place. Furthermore, no decision of the group can be implemented until all proper legal protocols are observed, including public input into the resulting proposal.

Inyo County Water Department, LADWP, California Department of Fish and Game, the Sierra Club, and the ranching community have joined the OVC in this "ad hoc" process. What makes the process special is that it has created an atmosphere in which we have been able to brainstorm freely. Initial contacts were stilted and hostilities were evident, but as we have moved into a third month of meetings, the process has resulted in increased trust. Very creative and practical ideas have surfaced. We now have seven projects under consideration that include one associated with Hines Spring, as well as six more that will utilize both artesian well waters and canal waters to create habitats that will substantially enhance wetland habitat in the Owens Valley for the benefit of wildlife and aquatic organisms. OVC members Carla Scheidlinger, Derrick Vocelka, and Mark Bagley feel genuinely enthusiastic about this process and believe that, time-consuming as it is, it will result in a much more environmentally valuable project than could have been obtained from the consultants alone. If a proposal before the decision-makers of the "ad hoc" participants truly is universally supported, it will be a real landmark in the Owens Valley water wars. We may be replacing “see you in court” with “see you on the next field trip.”

—Carla Scheidlinger, President, Owens Valley Committee
Contacts:  Phone:

8/30/2006 Ripping yarn or happy ending: Can the Green Book be revised? 
The Inyo County/Los Angeles Technical Group met this morning in Bishop to discuss, among other issues, how to find a way to revise the Green Book--a technical appendix to the Inyo-Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement that describes and defines the methods by which Inyo and Los Angeles will monitor vegetation and water table levels in Inyo County and how they'll interpret and respond to those changes.

Tom Brooks, director of the Inyo County Water Department, described the problem in a nutshell--or rather, two nutshells. Pointing to two separate ovals depicting the respective staffs of Inyo County Water Department and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, he noted that both staffs respond to policy directives from higher up as part of their jobs. If policy goals of Los Angeles and Inyo County don't overlap, he said, asking LADWP and Inyo County staff below them to find compromises is "an exercise in frustration and futility." Two staffs pursuing disparate goals means the ovals encompassing those goals, by definition, can't be forced into common space.

Brooks outlined a proposal to crack these two hard nutshells using the stated and presumably mutual goals of the Long Term Water Agreement by which both Inyo County and Los Angeles are legally--if sometimes uncomfortably-- bound. Identifying three key elements of the Water Agreement--avoidance of impacts to the environment, a reliable water supply for Los Angeles, and joint management of groundwater as a resource--he suggested a list of principles for implementing the Agreement and followed with a set of simple parameters that could be used to help direct water management:

1. A depth-to-water target (a water table level that needs to be attained periodically to meet the vegetation maintenance goals of the Long Term Water Agreement)
2. A recovery curve that defines the amount of time needed to return to the depth-to-water target
3. A period of time for vegetation to recover after water tables returned to the depth-to-water target
4. A depth-to-water floor (a water table level that would allow "timely" recovery of the water tables to the depth-to-water target. Or, in other words, a water table level high enough that vegetation would be able to survive during the wait for water tables to return to rooting zones and to recover afterward).

Such a model, Brooks said, would allow LADWP to decide what groundwater pumping strategy it wants to use within a set of well-defined guidelines. Joint management would mean that Inyo and Los Angeles would try to agree upon and adjust the first three parameters as the two agencies gather data on how well their models were working.

Most important, Brooks said, was that "our decision-makers" identify policy goals for the two agencies that would allow some compromise between them.

Gene Coufal, manager of the LADWP aqueduct business group, agreed that the two agencies should be able to find common ground, noting that a separate series of ad hoc meetings regarding mitigation plans for Owens Valley (see "Ad hoc meetings bring hope to mitigation process" above) have been "very positive and successful."

"We can do this," he said. "Let's just get this process started."

The two agencies agreed to hold a staff "kick-off" meeting in late September that would allow employees of both agencies to create a list of general problems with the Green Book and, from there, ask policy-makers at upcoming Standing Committee meetings to give them specific directives--or at least a specific direction--related to those problems.

Today's discussion also included
* an Owens Valley operations and runoff update (updated information through June has been posted at ladwp.com)
*a discussion of On/Off well status (no change since April or May)
* an update on water spreading (all water spreading has now stopped and the court order to spread 16,294 acre feet of water has been met and slightly exceeded)
* a brief discussion of LADWP's proposed new wells (including a new well in Bell Canyon that will be used to supply the new Big Pine ditch system, a replacement well in the Bairs-Georges wellfield, a domestic well in Keeler, and 4 new monitoring wells to replace monitoring wells that will be affected during expansion of Hwy. 395 as part of the Manzanar Highway Improvement Project). One problem that will have to be addressed soon is how to designate new vegetation transects and locate monitoring wells to adequately substitute for those at vegetation monitoring sites SS3 and SS4, which will be affected by the highway expansion.

Finally, Brooks and Coufal discussed items for the next Standing Committee meeting agenda. Brooks suggested that the Standing Committee should start discussion on the Green Book if possible, determine whether or not the Drought Recovery Policy is still in effect, and set a schedule for the next three or four Standing Committee meetings--"for the next six, seven, or eight months"--given that the Committee has not met for several years, thus making "joint management" difficult at best.

Coufal suggested that the Standing Committee also discuss the third phase of LADWP land releases and that he'd like the committee to direct staff to study the problem of water supply for the Owens Lake, more specifically to evaluate whether or not groundwater could be used as a water supply for the Owens Lake mitigation project.

The next technical group meeting will be September 27 at 10 a.m. in the LADWP multi-purpose room at 300 Mandich Street in Bishop.

--Ceal Klingler


Contacts:  Phone:

4/14/2006 Reminder: EPA proposal leaves Owens Valley in the dust 
Comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules and amendments for National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter are due April 17.

The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended tightening particulate matter pollution limits to protect public health and to comply with the Clean Air Act, but the EPA has proposed limits at a level that even its own committee sees as inadequate. Proposed rules loosen or abolish monitoring and control standards for rural areas such as the east side of the Sierra Nevada--or for that matter, most of the western United States--which means federal air quality standards wouldn’t apply any more even for those who live or travel in rural areas with air quality poor enough to harm their health.

The new proposed rules and amendments would revoke current national 24-hour particulate matter (PM10) air pollution monitoring standards and restrict proposed monitoring to “urbanized” areas with “a population of at least 100,000 persons” |1|. The rules would ignore the recommendations of the EPA’s own advisory committee |2|, exclude control of “agricultural sources and mining sources,” and specifically exclude “any ambient mix of PM10-2.5 that is dominated by rural windblown dust and soils and PM generated by agricultural and mining sources” from monitoring |3|.

In other words, areas like the Owens (dry) Lake, which has been called “possibly the greatest or most intense human-disturbed dust source on earth” |4| would not qualify for monitoring under the EPA’s new rules, nor would Mono Lake or other rural areas with similar problems throughout the United States.

PM-10 pollution has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular problems, asthma and other respiratory problems (particularly among children, athletes, and the elderly) and to increased risk of premature death among those 50 years old or older. |5|.

Airborne pollution flowing from the Owens lake bed carries a toxic cocktail of arsenic, cadmium, nickel, and sulfates. Windblown dust storms from the lake have engulfed not only the small communities of Lone Pine, Independence, Keeler, and Olancha, Calfornia, but have also rolled as far north as Bishop and as far south as the China Lake Naval Weapons Center and Ridgecrest. Although Los Angeles has made significant strides in reducing pollution from the lake bed--which dried after Los Angeles diverted the lower Owens River to its aqueduct--more work remains. Unfortunately, Los Angeles has recently shown reluctance to expand that work. |6|

Due to windblown dust from the lake bed, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District has already issued more than a dozen Stage 1 and Stage 2 air pollution health advisories for communities in the Owens Valley since this January. |7| A Stage 1 health advisory recommends that children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung problems refrain from strenuous outdoor activities in the area; a Stage 2 advisory simply recommends that everyone refrain from strenuous outdoor activities in the area. |8|

The Owens Valley is bordered by three National Parks and several Wilderness Areas. The vast majority of Inyo County is public land. Fishing, ranching, hiking, bicycling, running, skiing, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management activities, and other “strenuous outdoor” tourism and employment constitute significant contributions to Inyo County’s economy and to neighboring Mono County's economy. Consequently, toxic dust storms affect not only residents’ health but also their livelihoods.

“Rural windblown dust” also causes health problems across the U.S. in communities that would not qualify for monitoring under the EPA’s proposed rules. Aside from health problems caused by PM-10 pollution from crustal sources in rural areas |9|, including arsenic- and cadmium-laced windblown dust throughout Arizona |10|, windblown dust from rural areas, mines, and agricultural sources carries:

• coccidioidomycosis, or “Valley Fever” (which bears a heavy cost in both human terms and economic terms) |11|
• other human pathogens, aerosolized manure, and pesticide-laden dust |12|
• silica (which can cause severe scarring of the lungs, cancer, and other disorders) |13|
• heavy metals--including lead, zinc, mercury, and uranium--and additional silica from mining operations |14|
• PM10 from both wood fires and wildfires |15|
• automobile pollution from mobile sources, for example, exhaust from the cars of millions of urban and rural residents who drive through rural areas en route to parks and recreation areas, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park |16|.

Current PM 10 monitoring rules provide equal protection under the law. Under new rules, rural areas and residents already subjected to unhealthy and out-of-compliance air quality would not even qualify for monitoring because of proposed rules’ emphasis on population density and on who generates the pollution rather than on the level of pollution. Constitutional considerations aside (the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) |17|, the rules would overlook at least one third of the U.S. population and at least three quarters (75%) of its land mass, if not more |18|.

Whether or not the EPA chooses to protect rural residents as well as urban residents, windblown dust makes no distinctions. Human pathogens such as coccidioidomycosis have been carried as PM-10 pollution not only to neighboring urban areas from rural areas, but across continents and oceans as well |19|.


WHAT YOU CAN DO

Write, fax, or e-mail a letter to the EPA (information below). Or if you prefer, sign on to someone else’s letter (links below).

If you’re writing your own letter

1. Be sure to identify your comments with the identification information “Re: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2001-0017 and Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OAR–2004–0018”

2. Send your comments to one of the following addresses (deadline April 17):
a. Over the Web: go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow online instructions
b. E-mail: a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov
c. Fax: 202-566-1749
d. Mail: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2001-0017 and EPA–HQ– OAR–2004–0018, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460 (The EPA requests two copies if you choose to mail your comments).

3. The EPA’s proposed rules, amendments, and other comments are posted on the World Wide Web at http://www.epa.gov/oar/particlepollution/actions.html. We suggest including one or more of the following points in your letter in your own words:


--Remind the EPA that people in rural areas--like people in urban areas--have lungs, enjoy being able to breathe, and are entitled to equal protection under the law. The proposed rules would subject rural residents to worse air pollution standards and less protection than urban residents would receive.

--Ask that the EPA establish a national monitoring program for PM 10-2.5 (particulate matter than ranges from 10 to 2.5 micrometers in size) across the nation regardless of population density or that, at the very least, the EPA maintains current PM-10 monitoring standards in rural areas. Trying to protect the health of the nation while ignoring its rural communities is like trying to drive children to school with the windshield covered: it’s possible to get there by looking through the rear view mirror and out the side windows, but it’s much safer, easier, and healthier to look ahead than to drive backwards or drive blindly.

--Ask that the EPA follow its own committee’s recommendations to continue to study the health effects of such pollution rather than giving certain industries a blanket exemption. Rural dust can be more toxic than urban dust or less toxic than urban dust--it’s not the rural or agricultural nature of the dust that determines its toxicity, it’s the content and the size.

--Ask the EPA to revise its proposed PM 2.5 daily and annual standards and PM 10-2.5 daily standard downward to the lower end of the ranges recommended by the committee it asked to study the problem, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, and to apply those standards throughout the nation.

--Ask the EPA not to leave the Owens Valley in the dust.

If you’d rather not write your own letter, or if you need a bit more help:

The Mono Lake Committee has posted information and a sample letter at http://www.monolakecommittee.org/airquality/. A wealth of local information is available as well in the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s comments, which are posted at http://www.gbuapcd.org/Information/EPACommentLetter.pdf. The American Lung Association and the League of Conservation Voters have posted more general prepackaged e-mail sign-on letters at http://lungaction.org/campaign/Air_Health_Standards and at http://action.lcv.org/campaign/clean_air041306 respectively.


ENDNOTES

1. p. 2736. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2005. 40 CFR Parts 53 and 58
[EPA-HQ-OAR-2004-0018; FRL-8015-9] Revisions to Ambient Air Monitoring Regulations. Proposed Rule; amendments. Downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2006/January/Day-17/a179.pdf April 11, 2006.

See also Environmental Protection Agency. December 2005. 40 CFR Part 50 [EPA–HQ– OAR–2004–0018] National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter; Proposed Rule. Downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2006/January/Day-17/a177.pd April 11, 2006.

2. Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. March 2006. Letter: Recommendations Concerning the Proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. EPA-CASAC-LTR-06-002. Downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/casac-ltr-06-002.pdf April 10, 2006.

3. p. 2718. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2005. 40 CFR Parts 53 and 58
[EPA-HQ-OAR-2004-0018; FRL-8015-9] Revisions to Ambient Air Monitoring Regulations. Proposed rule; amendments. Downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2006/January/Day-17/a179.pdf April 11, 2006.

4. Hinkley, T.K. U.S. Geological Survey: Mineral Dusts in the Southwestern U.S. http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/geology/dust. Downloaded from the World Wide Web April 3, 2006.

5. Many studies have appeared on the effects of PM-10 pollution. For samples of the discussion, see

a. Brunekreef B. and Forsberg B. 2005. Epidemiological evidence of effects of coarse airborne particles on health. Eur Respir J. 26(2):309-18.

b. Ostro, B.D., Hurley S., and Lipsett, M.J. 1999. Air pollution and daily mortality in the Coachella Valley, California: a study of PM10 dominated by coarse particles. Environ Res. 81(3): 231-8.

c. Carlisle, A.J., and Sharp, N. C. 2001. Exercise and outdoor ambient air pollution. Br J Sports Med 35: 214-22.

6. For information on windblown dust from the Owens Lake, see
a. Reheis, M.C. U.S. Geological Survey. 1997. Owens (Dry) Lake, California: A Human-Induced Dust Problem. http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/geology/owens/ Downloaded from the World Wide Web April 6, 2006.
b. Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. Owens Lake. http://www.gbuapcd.org/owenslake/index.htm Downloaded from the World Wide Web April 10, 2006.

For recent articles on Los Angeles’ lawsuit appealing dry lake dust reduction measures, see
c. Klusmire, J. April 2006. Dry Lake legal battle takes flight. The Inyo Register. 136 (41): A1.
7. Archived health advisories from the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.gbuapcd.org/weblog.htm (downloaded April 10, 2006).

8. GBUAPCD explains its health advisories on the World Wide Web at http://www.gbuapcd.org/healthadvisory/pressrelease.htm (downloaded April 10, 2006).

9. See Ostro, B.D., Hurley S., and Lipsett, M.J. 1999. Air pollution and daily mortality in the Coachella Valley, California: a study of PM10 dominated by coarse particles. Environ Res. 81(3): 231-8.

10. Wrona, N.C. Director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. 2005. Subject: OAQPS Staff Paper Publication No. EPA-452/D-05-005. Letter to Mr. Fred Butterfield, EPA Science Advisory Board, dated August 4, 2005.

11. Coccididioidomycosis or “Valley Fever” is a well-known hitchhiker on rural, windblown dust in Arizona, California, and New Mexico. Because the spores are frequently a component of PM-10 pollution, they can be tracked using pollution monitoring mechanisms already in place. The following articles describe the spore’s health effects, virulence, costs, endemic rural presence, and ability to travel in windblown dust:
a. Comrie, A.C. 2005. Climate Factors Influencing Coccidioidomycosis Seasonality and Outbreaks. Environ Health Perspect. 113(6): 688-92.
b. Pappagianis, D. and Einstein, H. 1978. Tempest from Tehachapi Takes Toll or Coccidioides Conveyed Aloft and Afar. West J Med 129: 527-530.
c. Pappagianis, D. 1988. Epidemiology of Coccidioidomycosis. Curr Top Med Mycol. 2: 199-238.
d. Williams, P.L., Sable, D.L., Mendez, P. and Smyth, L.T. 1979. Symptomatic coccidioidomycosis following a severe natural dust storm. An outbreak at the Naval Air Station, Lemoore, Calif. Chest 76(5): 577-70.
e. Durry E., Pappagianis D., Werner S.B., Hurtwagner L., Sun R.K., Maurer M., McNeil MM, and Pinner R.W. 1997. Coccidioidomycosis in Tulare County, California, 1991: reemergence of an endemic disease. J Med Vet Mycol 35(5):321-6.
f. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2001. Coccidioidomycosis among persons attending the world championship of model airplane flying--Kern County, California, October 2001. (The CDC also describes Coccidoidomycosis and its dust-loving nature on its web site at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/coccidioidomycosis_t.htm ).

12. See Popendorf, W., Donham K.J., Easton D.N., and Silk, J. 1985. A synopsis of agricultural respiratory hazards. Am Ind Hyg Assoc. J. 46(3): 154-161.

For a discussion of airborne manure issues, see Pillai SD and Ricke SC. 2002. Bioaerosols from municipal and animal wastes: background and contemporary issues. Can J Microbiol. 48(8):681-96.

13. For a description of abundant silica in wind-blown dust, see Gillette, D. 1997. Soil derived dust as a source of silica: aerosol properties, emissions, depositions, and transport. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol 7(3):303-11.

For a discussion of the health effects of breathing quartz silica, see Canada’s National Occupational Health & Safety Resource site on the Web at http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/quartz_silica/health_qua.html

14. Mine tailings often contain materials that can be transported by wind or that are emitted into the atmosphere. These materials include mercury (for example, see a), cadmium, lead, and zinc (for examples, see b, c, and d). Uranium can also be carried in windblown tailings (see d).

a. Nacht, D.M., Gustin, M.S., Engle, M.A., Zehner, R.E., Giglini, A.D. 2004. Atmospheric mercury emissions and speciation at the sulphur bank mercury mine superfund site, Northern California. Eviron Sci Technol 38(7): 1977-83.

b. Pierzynski, G.M., Lambert, M., Hetrick, B.A.D., Sweeney, D.W., and Erickson, L.E. 2002. Phytostabilization of Metal Mine Tailings Using Tall Fescue. Pract. Periodical of Haz., Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Mgmt 6(4): 212-217.

c. Hasselbach, L., Ver Hoef J.M., Ford J., Neitlich P., Crecelius E., Berryman S., Wolk, B. and Bohle T. 2005. Spatial patterns of cadmium and lead deposition on and adjacent to National Park Service lands in the vicinity of Red Dog Mine, Alaska. Sci Total Environ, 348(1-3):211-30.

d. Neuberger J.S. and Hollowell J.G. 1982. Lung cancer excess in an abandoned lead-zinc mining and smelting area. Sci Total Environ 25(3):287-94.

e. Thomas, P.A. 2000. Radionuclides in the terrestrial ecosystem near a Canadian uranium mill--Part III: Atmospheric deposition rates (pilot test). Health Phys 78(6): 633-40.

15. The town of Mammoth Lakes in Mono County California is a good example of a “rural” community that suffers from excessive PM10 pollution in winter “due to a combination of wood smoke and cinders put on icy roads for traction in winter” (Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District web site, “History and Purpose,” http://www.gbuapcd.org/background.htm, downloaded April 10, 2006.)

16. Tailpipe emissions have been or are becoming a significant concern at many of the nation’s National Parks. Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks--accessible from Mono and Inyo Counties--suffered for many years from air pollution that sometimes exceeded that of cities; Yosemite still exceeds the EPA’s limits for ozone pollution. Great Smoky Mountains National Park suffers from pollution that rivals Los Angeles’ (and tops the National Parks Conservation Association’s list of the nation’s five most polluted national parks on the Web at http://www.npca.org/across_the_nation/visitor_experience/code_red/default.asp). Winter snowmobile emissions are a significant concern at Yellowstone (see Mockler, K. 1999. Dirty air in the deep of winter. High Country News 31(22): Bulletin Board), and windblown urban pollution is still a concern for the Grand Canyon (see http://www.nps.gov/grca/pphtml/subenvironmentalfactors23.html and http://www.westgov.org/wga/publicat/epafin.htm. Rural gateway communities adjacent to National Parks, however, escape scrutiny.

17. See Amendment 14 (and Amendments 11-27) to the Constitution at http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html . (The Constitution itself can be found at http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution.html ).

18. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates, based on U.S. Census figures, that approximately 68 percent of Americans lived in urbanized areas in 2000 (see “Measuring Rurality: What Is Rural?” on the USDA’s website at http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/Rurality/WhatIsRural/index.htm, downloaded April 11, 2006) and that at least 75 percent of the nation’s land mass would be classified as strictly rural (see “Measuring Rurality: New Definitions in 2003” at http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/Rurality/NewDefinitions/, downloaded April 11,2006). Thus, by U.S. Census standards, at least 90 million Americans (32 percent of the year 2000 population as defined by the U.S. Census--see more at http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en) live in non-urbanized areas that would likely not qualify for PM10-2.5 monitoring. EPA definitions of “urbanized,” however, would be even stricter, focusing on the most densely populated portions of urbanized areas (see p. 2737 of Environmental Protection Agency. December 2005. 40 CFR Parts 53 and 58
[EPA-HQ-OAR-2004-0018; FRL-8015-9] Revisions to Ambient Air Monitoring Regulations. Proposed rule; amendments. Downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2006/January/Day-17/a179.pdf April 11, 2006).

19. For a surprising list of human, other animal, and plant pathogens that travel across oceans and continents on wind-blown dust from rural and urban areas, see Shinn, E.A., Griffin, D.W., and Seba, D.B. 2003. Atmospheric transport of mold spores in clouds of desert dust. Arch Environ Health 58(8) 498-504.




Contacts:  Ceal Klingler webmaster@ovcweb.org Phone:

1/25/2006 Construction begins on Lower Owens River Project 
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced January 12 that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) had begun construction on the Lower Owens River Project, a project that would allow water to flow once again into the southern 62-mile stretch of the Owens River. The project, anticipated for many years, is meant to help mitigate some of the environmental impacts to the Owens Valley from LADWP groundwater pumping between 1970 and 1990.

LADWP Board President Mary Nichols cited the construction's start as signaling "what we hope to be a new spirit of cooperation that fulfills the City's environmental responsibility in the Owens Valley and demonstrates our commitment to restore and protect the natural resources of the Eastern Sierra watershed."

In recent years, the old spirit of cooperation in the valley had acquired a haunted look. Although flows to the river were scheduled to begin in mid-2003, delays in planning the project stretched from months to years. In July 2005, Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee Cooper, Jr., ordered the LADWP to begin flows to the river by January 2007 or be "enjoined and restrained" from using its second aqueduct to continue to export water from the Owens Valley.

"...[I]t is important to note that DWP has been and is in violation of CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act] since the early '70s because the mitigation measures it agreed to have not been accomplished as agreed and ordered," he wrote in a June 2005 Statement of Decision.

LADWP officials received the last outstanding permit for the project --a section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers--January 10. Officials at the agency estimate that the project will be completed in 16 months.

--Ceal Klingler
Contacts:  Phone:

1/18/2006 New revisions may turn a blind eye to lake dust 
Take a deep breath, but don't hold it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed, among other pollution monitoring revisions, to revoke current 24-hour air pollution monitoring standards in rural areas of the U.S. such as Inyo County because, as a December 20 EPA press release stated (1), windblown dust and soils and agricultural and mining sources "do not pose much risk to public health."

Dust pollution from the Owens (Dry) Lake in Inyo County, California has frequently--and flagrantly-- violated federal air pollution control standards and has been acknowledged as a health hazard previously by the EPA, which noted in 1999 that "the dust from the lake bed contains carcinogens such as nickel, cadmium, and arsenic, as well as sodium, chlorine, iron, calcium, potassium, sulfur, aluminum and magnesium" (2) and that--aside from the well-known carcinogens in the dry lake dust--"particulate matter air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.... Exposure to air pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause wheezing, coughing, and respiratory irritation in individuals with sensitive airways." (3)

Although the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has made some strides in dust control efforts under a State Implementation Plan, which is enforced by the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (4) and which was strongly encouraged by the EPA, the dry lake bed is the largest single source of PM-10 pollution in the United States. The lake has been cited as a "spectacular example" of dust storms and desertification from surface water diversion. Dust storms from the lake have been anecdotally linked to surges in hospital emergency room visits as far as Ridgecrest, California, 60 miles south. Dust from the lake has impaired visibility in Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Death Valley National Parks as well as at China Lake Naval Weapons Center. (5)

Under the new rules, the federal government would simply stop monitoring dust pollution in rural areas such as the Owens Valley, operating on the assumption that dust pollution in rural areas does not significantly endanger human health and that monitoring efforts should focus instead on urban areas.

"Armed with the Bush Administration's innovative clean air policies and the best available science we will continue to improve air quality and public health," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. (6)

Proposed revisions to EPA rules have been posted on the EPA web site at www.epa.gov/air/particles/actions.html (see their comments on "coarse particles") and on the Federal Register online at www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/ (use the search term "ambient air"). Public comment is invited.

--Ceal Klingler

1. See yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/4d84d5d9a719de8c85257018005467c2/1e5d3c6f081ac7ea852570de0050ae2b!OpenDocument
2. See www.epa.gov/region09/air/owens/pmplan.html
3. See www.epa.gov/region09/air/owens/qa.html
4. See www.gbuapcd.org/
5. See geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/geology/owens/
6. See http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/4d84d5d9a719de8c85257018005467c2/1e5d3c6f081ac7ea852570de0050ae2b!OpenDocument




Contacts:  Ceal webmaster@ovcweb.org Phone:

7/25/2005 Judge threatens to stop exports 
In a July 25 hearing to discuss sanctions against the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for delays in implementing the Lower Owens River Project (LORP), Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee Cooper, Jr., outlined an order that will stop water exports from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles via Los Angeles' second aqueduct if Los Angeles fails to commence flows to the Lower Owens River by January 25, 2007.

The project, which would restore 62 miles of the Lower Owens River, is partial mitigation for decades of groundwater pumping to fill the second aqueduct. Los Angeles diverted the Lower Owens River to its first aqueduct in 1913.

Cooper ordered that until flows in the river reach 40 cubic feet per second--the level agreed upon in a 1997 Memorandum of Understanding-- LADWP will provide 16,294 acre feet of water a year to replenish groundwater tables in the Owens Valley, restrict groundwater pumping to 57,412 acre feet per year, and beginning September 5, 2005--the most recent deadline for flows to commence to the river-- pay $5,000 per day until base flows in the river reach agreed-upon levels. If LADWP does not meet these conditions in addition to commencing flows by January 25, 2007, the judge's order to enjoin and restrain LADWP from exporting water from the Owens Valley through its second aqueduct will be implemented permanently.

"No excuses will be accepted," Cooper said. He added that it was "incredible" that LADWP had been in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act for more than 30 years.

The California Attorney General's Office, the Sierra Club, and the Owens Valley Committee (OVC) all requested during the hearing that the judge implement both deadlines and groundwater sanctions against LADWP. Gordon Burns, Deputy Attorney General for California, observed that LADWP had a "perverse incentive" to miss deadlines because the agency saved millions of dollars from delays.

"Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas," he said, pointing out that LADWP had become much more "creative" in seeking solutions since Cooper's June 24 ruling that LADWP should face sanctions for delays.

Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Joseph Brajevich argued that sanctions against LADWP were inappropriate because it was other parties who were slowing the project. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way," he said. "....We're prepared to lead if others will get out of the way."

If LADWP was, after years of delay, now prepared to lead, replied OVC attorney Don Mooney, it was "because we're behind them pushing."

Ultimately, Cooper concluded that "virtually every order ha[d] been violated" by LADWP. "It's time that stopped," he said.

--Ceal Klingler


Contacts:  CJK Phone:

6/25/2005 Judge rules against LADWP 
An Inyo County Superior Court judge ruled June 24 that the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) should face sanctions for missing a series of court-ordered deadlines in the Lower Owens River Project (LORP).

"DWP has been and is in violation of CEQA since the early 70's because the mitigation measures it agreed to have not been accomplished as agreed and ordered," Judge Lee Cooper, Jr., wrote in a Statement of Decision. "....It appears that DWP needs the threat of immediate sanctions before it gets busy on the LORP."

The project, which would restore 62 miles of the Lower Owens River, is partial mitigation for environmental damage from decades of groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley to fill a second Los Angeles aqueduct. Los Angeles diverted the Lower Owens River to its first aqueduct in 1913.

Cooper scheduled a hearing for July 25, 2005, to determine the nature of the sanctions, which may include fines or a reduction in water exports from the Owens Valley. Representatives of the Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club, who initiated the lawsuit, have observed that Los Angeles saves millions of dollars for every year the project is delayed.

DWP's claims that delays were beyond its control didn't wash with the judge.

"If [DWP] had not piddled around trying to play bureaucratic games with EPA and with the parties," Cooper wrote regarding one missed deadline, "...it appears likely they could have complied with the order."

--Ceal Klingler





Contacts:  CJK Phone:

4/19/2005 LADWP releases April 1 snow surveys in eastern Sierra 
LADWP snow surveys as of April 1, 2005 show the following heavy snowpacks:

Gem Pass- 151%
Mammoth Pass- 162%
Rock creek- 101%
Cottonwood lakes- 179%

These figures are less than 1982-83, but are quite high compared to any recent years. Recharge of aquifers in the Owens Valley from runoff moving under alluvial fans will be considerable. Depth to water in several well fields has been below 1985 baseline levels. In fact, depths to water in some well fields have been down since massive LADWP pumping in 1987-1989. What will be known soon (April 20) is the level of LADWP groundwater pumping for 2005-2006. Will water tables be allowed to rise closer to the root zones of grasses (2 meters) and shrubs (4 meters)? Or will pumping levels above the 70,000 acre-feet/year thought sustainable by USGS be exceeded once again?


Contacts:  Mike Prather Prather@qnet.com Phone: 876.5807

2/21/2005 OVC Foundation Visitor Center opens in Lone Pine 
A well-attended reception marked the opening of the OVC Foundation (OVCF) Visitor Center in Lone Pine Saturday, February 19th. A generous donation by an OVC member in honor of Betty Brown and OVC founding member Betty Gilchrist made the opening possible.

OVCF is involved in education, science, service and legal fundraising dealing with land and water management in the Owens Valley, particularly lands owned by the City of Los Angeles and managed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The Center, which houses a document and text library as well as interpretive displays, is open to the public. The center will be open most Mondays through Fridays in from 10:00AM to 2:00PM. Call 760.876.1845 for further details or come in and see us at 134 E. Bush St. in Lone Pine (across the street from the Post Office).

Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5807

2/1/2005 Note to Gewe: Legal obligations aren't a frill 

In a visit to the Owens Valley this January, LADWP chief operating officer Gerald Gewe was quoted in a local newspaper (Inyo Register, 01/27/2005) as complaining that "third parties want to add bells and whistles" that could add to the cost of the Lower Owens River Project. He said that such "bells and whistles" might prompt LADWP to "walk away" from the project. The following letter of response appeared in the Inyo Register (02/01/05) and is reprinted here with the author's permission:

To the Editor,

The Owens Valley Committee appreciates Jerry Gewe’s desire to get the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) moving. That has been our desire as well for the seven years that have expired since the LORP was finally agreed upon in the 1997 MOU. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) committed at that time to having water flowing in the river by June 2003. That day has come and gone. Gewe implies that the delays are due to the fact that “third parties want to add bells and whistles” that were never intended as part of the LORP re-watering plan. As a negotiator of that plan, I can assure you that the “bells and whistles” that Gewe seems to be referring to were in fact integral parts of the plan that were painstakingly negotiated by all parties. I assume that he is referring to the requirements that LADWP prepare an adequate Environmental Impact Report for the project, and that a monitoring and adaptive management plan be an integral part of the project description. Bypassing that requirement would be akin the Planning Department giving a go-ahead to a developer to slap up a building complex without having addressed the traffic impacts, fire protection requirements, or other new public services or liabilities associated with the complex. Gewe’s attitude suggests that water can just be put into the river, and any problems that might arise can be dealt with later. Responsible planners don’t consider that to be a good approach.

LADWP’s inability to provide these documents in a legally adequate form is part of a pattern of performance that has been in place since 1970, when the first environmental documentation for impacts to the Owens Valley caused by the second barrel of the aqueduct was required by California law. For the past 35 years, LADWP has continued to extract water from the Owens Valley without full compliance with environmental law for adequate mitigation. The LORP is the major mitigation required for the impacts that have been accumulating since 1970. LADWP’s strategy appears to be to produce inadequate environmental documents, and then oblige the “third parties” to either accept them and condemn the valley to ongoing degradation, or to challenge them, resulting in delays to the project. The parties have opted to challenge.

Let’s lay the delays where they belong. The “third parties” were an integral part of the LORP negotiations, and we are well aware of what kind of a deal we struck. Our refusal to accept shoddy planning is not a desire for “bells and whistles”. It is simply what is required to assure that this project does what it is supposed to do: mitigate for damages to the valley since 1970. A deal is a deal. If schedules are not being met, the fault lies squarely at the door of LADWP. The idea that LADWP can “walk away” from the LORP is an empty threat. The LORP is a legally required mitigation for the on-going exportation of water from the Owens Valley. The court wants to see this project implemented too, and the “third parties” are dedicated to assuring that the court continues to maintain oversight over the process.

Sincerely,

Carla Scheidlinger
Owens Valley Committee



Contacts:  Phone:

1/18/2005 OVC and Sierra Club ask Court to enforce MOU 
The Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club filed a petition for injunctive relief against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in mid-January with the Superior Court of California.

The lawsuit alleges that LADWP has failed to comply with the terms of a 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would have rewatered approximately sixty miles of the Lower Owens River by June 2003. Among other things, the petition alleges that the current plan for the Lower Owens River Project restricts or eliminates the use of seasonal habitat flows to manage the health of the river, fails to describe adequate monitoring and adaptive management techniques to ensure the success of the project, doesn't follow consultants' recommendations for the project, reduces water flows to important shallow water habitat in the Delta Habitat Area, and includes no final monitoring plan for the project.

The suit notes that, although the City of Los Angeles acknowledged many years ago that groundwater pumping from 1970 to 1990 had caused significant environmental impacts, and although they agreed to the Lower Owens River Project as partial mitigation for some of that damage, LADWP continues to export water while mitigation projects languish. The suit seeks an order from the Court that would both require LADWP to meet its MOU obligations and to provide a plan for the Lower Owens River Project that would satisfy those obligations.

Contacts:  CJK Phone:

10/17/2004 Inyo County BOS studies options for possible reorganization of the Inyo County Water Department 

OVC members attended several meetings/workshops of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors in September and October addressing the possible reorganization of the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD). This is an important issue for OVC because of the close working relationship OVC maintains with ICWD staff and also the clear role that the ICWD represents as the frontline defender of the Owens Valley against the continuous pressure of LADWP for more water.

Several options are being studied by supervisors prior to making a decision:
1) Splitting legal work from the Water Director position. This would move the legal work into the Inyo County Counsel Office or a separate office from the ICWD.
2) Keeping the two positions together as is the current structure when hiring a new Water Director, which would require finding a person with both legal and managerial skills.
3) Filling the Water Director position from within Inyo County staff (closed recruitment) or hiring nationwide (open recruitment).
4) Appoint an Interim Water Director as soon as possible because hiring new people for any permanent position may take until mid 2005. Retiring Water Director Greg James has been contracted with to do legal work through 2005.
5.) Moving the salt cedar removal to the Agricultural Commissioners Office. This would result in a new loss of grant revenue and may not happen.

A schedule of Board of Supervisor meetings leading to a possible decision is as follows:
Oct. 19 – Agendize the discussion of an Interim Water Director. Probably closed session due to being a personnel item. Position most likely would be filled from within Inyo County government departments.
Oct. 26 – Agendize the discussion of the cost of each option
Nov. 2 – Possible BOS action on Interim Water Director appointment and cost options.

The public is urged to share their views with supervisors prior to any decision being made. Options discussed are listed on the ICWD website at www.inyowater.org. County Administrator Rene Mendez urged the BOS to adopt a clear and strong policy decision for the goals of any changes being made to the ICWD. He suggested policy that clearly states the BOS's desire to strengthen the ICWD and improve its effectiveness in dealing with Los Angeles. He also stated that he expects next year to have a full agenda of legal action as Inyo County prepares to deal with a list of disputes with Los Angeles.

Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5807

10/6/2004 Sierra Club files CEQA lawsuit against LADWP 
The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit October sixth against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) over the adequacy of the Lower Owens River Project Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  The lawsuit alleges a violation of CEQA in that the Final EIR failed to identify a significant impact to approximately 600 acres of valuable shorebird and wading bird habitat on the Owens Lake playa located just below the Owens River Delta.  The project described in the FEIR proposes reduced flows to the area in fall, winter, and spring, resulting in effects acknowledged as a significant impact in the LORP Draft Environmental Impact Report.  The description of reduced flows as a significant impact, however, was eliminated from the Final EIR without explanation.

The Sierra Club also seeks a Writ of Mandate directing LADWP to comply with its obligations to submit a habitat management plan for shorebird and snowy plover habitat under a 2001 Fish and Game Code 1601 Agreement.  As part of a lakebed alteration agreement that LADWP was required to obtain for its dust control project--a project to reduce air pollution caused by the drying of Owens Lake, which resulted from the City’s export of water from the Owens River--LADWP is required to create and dedicate in perpetuity up to 2000 acres of shorebird and snowy plover habitat on the Owens Lake playa.  LADWP failed to submit and implement a habitat management plan, due in December 2003, for 1000 acres of habitat within shallow flooded areas created for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project.  The agency also failed to submit and implement a habitat management plan, due in July 2003, for up to an additional 1000 acres of habitat to be created on Owens Lake using only naturally occurring water sources.
Contacts:  Phone:

7/30/2004 Short takes from the July 29 Inyo County Water Commission meeting 
LORP EIR/EIS: Deciding not to decide

The Inyo County Water Commission voted 4-1 Thursday night to affirm the Inyo County Water Department's recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to 1) defer consideration of certification of the Lower Owens River Project EIR/EIS until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines whether or not it will disburse grant money in time to help fund construction of the project and 2) direct staff to work with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the EPA to "(a) achieve an EIR/EIS that is acceptable to the three agencies, (b) to secure the federal grant funds for the County at the soonest possible time, and (c) to begin construction of the LORP at the soonest possible time."

Given that the EPA is likely to issue a statement next week saying that the EIS--as it stands now--is inadequate, and given that the EPA originally planned to disburse approximately $5.2 million grants-in-aid for the LORP to the County only upon the issuance of an adequate EIS and a Quality Assurance Plan, Inyo County Water Department Director Greg James recommended that Inyo County defer its decision so that the County will neither be rejecting the project nor committing itself without sufficient funding.

Reorganize or flush the Water Department?

ICWD Director Greg James also discussed a Board of Supervisors workshop planned for August 3, 2004, during which the Board will discuss a reorganization of the Inyo County Water Department. Given James' impending December 30 retirement, the Supervisors face several options. They may decide to 1) merge the Inyo County Water Department with another department--a solution that would, James noted, place a difficult burden on the person chosen to direct the two departments, 2) let the ICWD remain as a stand-alone department and recruit a new director internally, or 3) let the ICWD stand alone and recruit a new director externally. If the department remains independent, it may still be reorganized.

ICWD's perpetually dehydrated budget has left it with no seasonal staff, resulting in a 40% drop in vegetation monitoring, no seasonal assistants to help with well monitoring, and dependence on grants in order to maintain the rest of the department's full-time staff. Recent changes in LADWP's irrigation water and stock water policies have raised the specter of changes in Type E vegetation, and changes in tailwater may affect Type D vegetation and other vegetation, but ICWD doesn't have the staff to monitor such changes. If EPA funding evaporates, staff and funds for the Lower Owens River Project would present another serious challenge.

The Supervisors will probably not make a final decision on the question of reorganization until at least August 17.
Contacts:  CJK Phone:

6/24/2004 Correction: not necessarily a Final Environmental Impact Statement 
A previous news item on the Owens Valley Committee web site ("LADWP releases LORP report," 6/23/04) labeled an LADWP report as a Lower Owens River Project Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement (LORP FEIR/S). In fact, although the LADWP-titled "Final Environmental Impact Report & Environmental Impact Statement" listed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the "NEPA Lead Agency" and the Inyo County Water Department as the "CEQA Responsible Agency," the report was completed and released with neither final input or final approval from either agency.

Although Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said last December that an agreement that established new deadlines for the LORP signaled "a new spirit of cooperation," this May LADWP informed both Inyo County and the EPA that it would be completing the Final Environmental Impact Report and Statement for the LORP alone. In a June 1 press release retroactively explaining the decision, Jerry Gewe, chief operating officer of LADWP's water system, said LADWP decided to complete the report by itself in order to meet court-ordered deadlines.

"As most of us know, it is a much more time-consuming process when you must reach consensus among several agencies that often have different priorities and responsibilities," Gewe said. "We were making progress in resolving the remaining issues, but time was running out."

It remains to be seen whether a project that meets the priorities of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power can also meet the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA will decide whether and how much to help fund the project--in amounts up to 6.2 million dollars-- based upon how well the project complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and based on the environmental impact analysis, the process from which it was disinvited in May.

Originally conceived and agreed to in 1991 as partial mitigation for decades of Owens Valley environmental damage due to Los Angeles's groundwater pumping, the Lower Owens River Project would, among other measures, partially rewater a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River that ceased to flow after surface water diversions to the first City of Los Angeles aqueduct in the early 1900s. A Memorandum of Understanding between LADWP and other parties in 1997 clarified terms of the project. Groundwater pumping continues, but the LORP remains unimplemented.





Contacts:  CJK Phone:

6/23/2004 LADWP releases LORP report 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) released a searchable PDF version of the "Lower Owens River Project Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement" (LORP FEIR/S) today (June 23, 2004). Compact discs containing the LORP FEIR/S are available to the public at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at 300 Mandich Street in Bishop, California.

The FEIR/S has been divided into three volumes. Volume one follows the same format as the LORP Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement and contains a description of the project, including anticipated costs and impacts. Volume two contains written responses and a transcript of oral comments from the public regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement for the LORP; the third volume contains responses to those comments. For those who don't mind heavy lifting, a printed version of the LORP FEIR/S will be available at the end of the month for $65; it'll run to more than 1500 pages.

Public and private agencies and concerned citizens cited a number of concerns in their review of the first description of the LORP in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, which was released November 1, 2002. These included the proposed water supply for the project, the size of a pumpback station to return water from the river to LADWP's aqueduct, the effects of reduced flows to the Owens River Delta, project funding, thresholds for and implementation of adaptive management, and management of noxious weeds (see http://www.ovcweb.org/Issues/LORPDEIR.html#Responses for more information on the DEIR/S). Recent legal settlements have affirmed a 50 cubic feet per second size for the pumpback station and designated matching funds from LADWP to help with saltcedar control, but enough issues remain that the LORP FEIR/S faces significant scrutiny on its release date.

Contacts:  CJK Phone:

6/15/2004 Lower Owens River Project Update 

(This article has been reprinted with the permission of the author, Darla Heil)

Nume Muna a Paya
"Our People's Water"
Originally printed in
Newsletter of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission, Spring 2004, Vol. 6(1)

Water politics in the Owens Valley – sometimes bewildering, often
overwhelming, but never dull and seemingly never resolved. For those who
try to keep up with the water-based environmental issues of the Owens
Valley, the past year has been a particularly busy one. Lately it seems as
if the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) staff has been
working overtime to come up with new ways to squeeze more water out of this
wonderful valley that we call home. Because it’s difficult to stay
informed about local water issues, we decided to include an article in each
of our next few newsletters to highlight and summarize some of the more
important water issues and proposed projects that are being dealt with in
the Owens Valley at the time of writing.

Sometimes I like to imagine what the Owens Valley must have looked like
before LADWP began exploiting the valley’s water resources. To furnish my
imaginings I refer to an 1859 report by J.W. Davidson detailing an
expedition he lead through the valley during July and August of that year.
Davidson wrote, “…I then marched as far as the Canyon of Owens River
through some of the finest country I have ever seen. It may be said
literally to be a vast meadow, watered every few miles with clear, cold
mountain streams, and the grass (although in August) as green as in the
first of spring.” It is unfortunate that in the intervening 145 years the
Owens Valley’s environment seems to have slid so far down the slippery slope
that is desertification, a process that was begun in the early twentieth century
when LADWP began exporting water from the Owens Valley through the first LA
Aqueduct to the thirsty young city of Los Angeles.

This article will discuss recent developments in the attempt to implement a
mitigation project whose completion date is long overdue, the Lower Owens
River Project (LORP). The LORP was first identified in LADWP’s 1991
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as a compensatory (counterbalancing)
mitigation for the hard to identify and quantify negative impacts that
groundwater pumping and export have had on the environment of the Owens
Valley, especially since 1970, when LADWP’s second aqueduct began being
filled in part with pumped groundwater. Inyo County and LADWP committed to
the LORP as a mitigation project in 1991, when they entered into the
Inyo/Los Angeles (LA) Water Agreement. Subsequent to that agreement, a 1997
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) settlement, provisions of which further
defined the LORP, was entered into by Inyo County, LADWP, the California
Department of Fish & Game, the State Lands Commission, the Sierra Club, and
the Owens Valley Committee to end 25 years of litigation over Owens Valley
water.

Under the Inyo/LA Water Agreement and the 1997 MOU, the County and LADWP committed to
rewatering the full 60-mile reach of the Lower Owens River that was diverted
to the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913 to supply water to the city. The
project is also supposed to create or enhance riparian and wetland habitats
for a wide variety of species by providing permanent water supplies to
several lakes and ponds and to two waterfowl and shorebird habitat areas
totaling approximately 1,800 acres, while providing recreational
opportunities and preserving the historical uses of the land. Water for the
project is to be supplied by LADWP from the LA Aqueduct and, according to
the 1997 Inyo/LA Water Agreement, is to be returned to LADWP’s water
conveyance systems via a 50 cfs pump station to be constructed above the
Owens River delta. It was planned that some of the water from the LORP
would bypass the pump station to provide water to the delta for habitat
enhancement. Prior to implementation of the LORP, it was stipulated that
the project must undergo a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
review separate from the 1991 EIR (which described the Inyo/LA Water
Agreement). Because federally allocated funds were slated to be provided
for the project through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it
was necessary that the LORP EIR, which is state mandated under CEQA, be
expanded into a joint document incorporating an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS), which is federally mandated under the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for projects using federal funding. Thus
the environmental assessment that must precede implementation of the LORP
became a joint EIR/EIS. Under the Inyo/LA Water Agreement construction of
the project was supposed to begin within three years of the Court’s approval
of the agreement, or by 2000, unless delays were agreed to by the county and
LADWP. Under the MOU a 40 cubic feet per second (cfs) baseflow of water was
supposed to be released to the river by June 2003, with any delays in that
date needing approval from all of the MOU signatories.

That was the plan; however, the reality is that by May 2004, almost a year
after the LORP was to have been fully implemented, the project is still far
from completion. In the view of many observers, after LADWP committed to
implementing the project by signing the Inyo/LA Water Agreement and the MOU
in 1997 they have used every opportunity to delay implementation of the
LORP. This perceived lack of a good faith effort to complete the project on
LADWP’s part is not particularly surprising when we consider that the water
that will be used to run the LORP will reduce LADWP’s profits, which in part
are earned from the export of water from the Owens Valley. LADWP has much
to gain by stalling the project for as long as possible. As a result of
LADWP’s delaying tactics, seven years after the agreements were signed and
almost a full year after baseflows were supposed to be established in the
river, the LORP EIR/EIS, completion of which is the first step in the
implementation process, has still not been completed, much less the design,
permitting, and construction of the facilities needed to implement the
project.

Another result of these delays is that local volunteer citizens groups have
been forced to take the legal lead in forcing LA’s hand to proceed with
implementation of the LORP. During December 2001, the Sierra Club and the
Owens Valley Committee (OVC) sued LADWP over their failure to prepare the
LORP Draft EIR after LADWP missed yet another deadline for completion of the
draft in October 2001. Soon thereafter, LADWP implicated Inyo County in the
suit because the LORP is a joint project between LADWP and the County. As a
result of this litigation, the court ordered that the Draft EIR/EIS be
completed and released for public comment by November 1, 2002 with the
possibility of court-ordered sanctions if the deadline was not reached.
Thus compelled, LADWP released the Draft EIR/EIS on the court imposed
deadline, after five years in preparation.

The Draft EIR/EIS contained at least one major 6-month delay built into the
document. This delay involved LADWP’s insistence that they are allowed to
build a 150 cfs pump station above Owens Lake (three times as large as the
pump station agreed to in the Inyo/LA Water Agreement). LADWP
included the large (150 cfs) pump station as an alternative in the LORP
Draft EIR/EIS, while declining to actually design the smaller 50 cfs pump
station. The Draft EIR/EIS informed the public that if the smaller pump
station were eventually picked as the preferred alternative for the LORP,
it would delay implementation of the project for six additional months,
which length of time LADWP declared they would need to design the smaller pump
station.

The size of the pump station was a highly contentious issue
because it was feared that if LADWP were allowed to build the larger pumpback
facility, it could turn what had been designed as a long term
groundwater pumping mitigation project into an opportunity for LA to pump
and export groundwater from the east side of the Owens Valley. The fear was
that if the large (150 cfs) pump station were constructed for the LORP,
LADWP could use the Lower Owens River to convey water pumped from the east
side of the Owens Valley, which was previously inaccessible for export
because it would have to be pumped uphill to reach the LA Aqueduct, to the
pump station where the water could effectively be pumped to the aqueduct.
The fact that LADWP entered into an $8 million contract in 2001 with
Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH), in which a specific task was written
instructing the consultants to explore the possibility of locating
production wells on the east side of the Owens Valley, seemed to justify
these fears.

In December 2003, the California State Attorney General’s office joined the
Sierra Club and the OVC in their lawsuit against LADWP regarding missed LORP
deadlines, among other issues. In February 2004 the parties to the lawsuit,
who are also signatories of the 1997 MOU (LADWP, Inyo County, the Sierra
Club, the OVC, California Fish & Game, and the State Lands Commission),
signed a second agreement, a LORP Stipulation and Order, in which LADWP
agreed to: 1) abandon their plans for a 150 cfs pump station for the LORP
and instead to construct the 50 cfs pump station, as was originally agreed
upon; 2) court stipulated deadlines for completion of different parts of the
LORP including a deadline of June 23, 2004 for completion of the Final
EIR/EIS; 3) court mandated status reporting of progress on implementation of
the LORP; and additional stipulations on assorted other mitigation-related
projects.

By mid-March 2004 LADWP and Inyo County had already missed deadlines set
forth in the Stipulation & Order (S&O), which had only been finalized a
month earlier. Because Inyo and LA failed to reach agreement on work plans
for two of the mitigation projects by the date set in the S&O, the court
(Judge Denton) began to hold mandatory settlement hearings to help settle
the disputes and move the mitigation projects along.

On April 9th, in a scheduled biweekly status report, LADWP declared that, under current
working conditions and due to lack of agreement between LADWP, Inyo County
and EPA in dealing with revisions to the Draft EIR/EIS and responses to public
comment, the Final EIR/EIS would be 26-31 weeks late. Inyo County then
suggested “tiering” the Final EIR/EIS so that the project
could move forward while the final environmental document was completed.
The County’s suggested Tier One would address the pump station and flows,
and would be completed by the June 23rd deadline, so that there would be no
delay for the release of water into the river. Tier Two would address
monitoring and adaptive management and would allow those details to be
worked out over a longer period of time without delaying the release of
water to the river. Since the County recognized that the “tiering” scheme
would require EPA approval, EPA and the Attorney General’s Office were
contacted, and on 4/29/04, Greg James (Inyo County Water Department)
notified Art Walsh (LADWP attorney) that the EPA and Attorney General’s
Office were both willing to work on tiering the environmental document and
that EPA would check to see if agency funding could be released for LORP
construction prior to release of the second tier environmental document so
that water could be released to the river on schedule. In the same message
Mr. James included a brief description of two possible approaches and legal
precedents for tiering the environmental document and asked Mr. Walsh if
LADWP was willing to work on a tiered approach to completing the Final
EIR/EIS to avoid further delays in the project.

On May 10th in a status report LADWP rejected working on a tiered approach
to completing the Final EIR/EIS, arguing that either approach would violate
or circumvent CEQA. However, in a letter to Judge Denton dated May 10th
Gordon Burns of the Attorney General’s Office disagreed with LA’s position
that either of the two possibilities for a tiered approach suggested by Inyo
County would necessarily violate or circumvent CEQA, and pointed out that LA
is already in violation of CEQA by not having already implemented the LORP.

In the May 10th status report LADWP offered the following three options for
completing the final environmental documents: Option 1) LADWP would stop
working with Inyo County and EPA on completing the Final EIR/EIS and would
work with only their consultant MWH in completing an Final EIR by the June
23rd deadline. LA noted that the Final EIR thus produced “will be an
awkward document” lacking in summaries and organization and containing
inconsistent areas unless LA was given an extra month to work on the Final
EIR with MWH. Walsh’s letter suggested that upon completion of the Final
EIR, LADWP and MWH staff would work with Inyo County and EPA to complete the
Final EIS. Option 2) Continue working on the document with all of the
agencies and LADWP’s consultants and be given a time extension of 26 to 31
extra weeks, or more, to complete the document. Option 3) Inyo County and
EPA would be given a limited amount of time to complete their review of the
document and give comments after which LADWP and MWH would incorporate those
comments as deemed appropriate. This option would require an extension of
at least 180 days. LADWP also noted that they would require a time
extension to complete a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), for which EPA
approval is needed before EPA funds can be released to be used for the
collection of environmental data for the project. During a May 10th
conference call with Judge Denton, the Sierra Club, OVC, and Attorney
General’s Office attorneys refused LADWP’s request for a time extension for
completion of the LORP Final EIR/EIS.

On May 11th LADWP attorney Art Walsh sent an e-mail message to Inyo County
and EPA telling them that after the status conference on the previous day
with Judge Denton and the other parties, LADWP had determined that they were
compelled to complete the FEIR/FEIS by June 23rd, and that to do this they
would cease working with the County and EPA on the document and would
henceforth work only with their contractors, MWH, to complete the document.
Walsh said that LADWP would attempt to incorporate comments in the document
received from EPA and the County prior to May 14th. On May 17th, Janet
Parrish of the US EPA wrote LADWP to remind them that EPA funding for the
project could be jeopardized if environmental measurements are taken before
obtaining EPA approval on a Quality Assurance Project Plan for LORP data
collection. Ms. Parrish also reiterated that EPA funding for the project
(which currently totals over $6 million to both LADWP and Inyo County)
cannot be released if LADWP’s environmental document does not meet EPA
requirements under NEPA so that the final document cannot be released as a
joint EIR/EIS. Without an EIS, federal funds cannot be released for the
project. Ms. Parrish wrote of EPA’s continued wish to investigate
proceeding with the project under the tiered approach as suggested by Inyo
County and offered mediation services for the issues.

Finally, in the latest LORP developments, in the May 21st status report to
the court, LADWP reported that the LORP Stipulation & Order deadline for
release of an Administrative Draft of the Final EIR/EIS (May 3rd) had not
been reached and declared that the LADWP most likely would not provide Inyo
County or EPA with an Administrative Draft before the June 23rd scheduled
public release of the Final EIR/EIS. The OVC, the Sierra Club and the
Attorney General's office are currently discussing preparations for filing a
motion to the court dealing with LA's non-compliance with CEQA, since the
LORP is long overdue. As a further complication, on May 24th the parties to
the LORP Stipulation and Order received notice that Judge Denton has
formally withdrawn from the case.

In future newsletters we will attempt to keep the Tribal people of the Owens
Valley informed about progress on implementation of the LORP. We’ll also
attempt to inform our readers about the numerous other projects that LADWP
has recently proposed which potentially threaten the environmental of the
Owens Valley and at the same time attack the viability of the Inyo/LA Water
Agreement. The issues that are at the top of our list of concerns right now
include: 1) LADWP’s proposal to reduce irrigation on their leased lands
beginning in 2004 and their declaration that a Mitigated Negative
Declaration fulfills their CEQA obligations for a project of this scope that
they need not disclose the range of possible negative impacts that
implementation of such a project could have on the valley; 2) LADWP’s
refusal to shut down deep well tests at Wells 380 and 381 after Inyo County
requested discontinuance of the cooperative study test; 3) LADWP’s
continued pumping at Reinhackle Springs without a County approved pump
protocol and without the installation of any monitoring wells, in violation
of the Inyo/LA Water Agreement; 4) LADWP’s progress in their plan to
construct new production wells on the Bishop Cone; 5) LADWP’s plans for
pumping at Well 416 near Lone Pine; 6) the failure of the Three-Year
Interim Pumping Plan Agreement; and 7) LADWP’s attempted unilateral
abandonment of the Drought Recovery Policy. We are also interested in
reporting updates on the Big Pine Ditch System and on the Laws Irrigation
Project.

Those who are interested in getting more information on these issues can use
a home computer to access the Internet to discover many sources of
information concerning Owens Valley water and environmental issues. The
following websites were used as some of the sources of information for this
article and can be accessed to further investigate the Owens Valley’s
ongoing water struggles:
Inyo County Water Department – www.inyowater.org,
Owens Valley Committee – www.ovcweb.org,
California Native Plant Society, Bristlecone Chapter –
www.bristleconecnps.org/Conservation, and
LADWP – www.ladwp.com.

Contacts:  Phone:

4/22/2004 April 15, 2004 Settlement Conference with Judge Denton 
Summary on Mandatory Settlement Conference with Judge Denton
April 15, 2004
Bishop, CA

1.) Yellow-billed Cuckoo work plan and schedule:

Parties agree that each consultant (Laymon and Otis Bay) will work in their own area of expertise. Both consultants will be listed for each task. An amendment will be prepared for the Stipulation and Order showing the work plan and schedule. Plaintiffs will review schedules before amendment is filed.

2.) Hines spring (1600 AF Additional Mitigation):

Parties agree on the revised work plan.


3.) LORP FEIR:

The Supplement to the March 26, 2004 Status Report stated that due to lack of agreement between Inyo, LA and EPA in dealing with revisions to the LORP DEIR and responses to public comment the LORP FEIR will be 26-31 weeks later that the June 23, 2004 date called for in the Stipulation and Order schedule. Inyo County suggested “tiering” the FEIR. In Tier One address the pump and flows. In Tier Two address monitoring and adaptive management. EPA approval of tiering is necessary. All parties will contact EPA and ask for EPA’s approval of tiering. On April 29, 2004 the parties will hold a conference via telephone with Judge Denton and share the results of talks with EPA. If there has been EPA approval then the parties will meet two weeks later in Bishop with Judge Denton.

EPA has asked for a QAPP (Quality Assurance Plan Program) that all grantees must file to show compliance with grant requirements and thereby receive funding. EPA wants the QAPP to address monitoring. A consultant will prepare the QAPP.

The next Status Report is due April 23, 2004.



Contacts:  Mike Prather Prather@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5807

4/5/2004 Public invited to groundwater lecture at Bishop Union High School 
Dr. Sally Manning, Vegetation Scientist of the Inyo County Water Department, will offer a presentation titled “Vegetation and Groundwater in the Owens Valley: Two Decades of Measuring Change” sponsored by the Owens Valley Committee. The presentation will be on Thursday April 22nd at 7:00 PM at the auditorium of the Bishop Union High School. Dr. Manning will update us on the status of the vegetation and groundwater monitoring activities of the Water Department, which was an issue much in the forefront when the area was negotiating the Long Term Water Agreement in the 1990’s. Ten years later, this issue remains as important as ever in the ongoing management of vegetation resources in the Owens Valley, and Dr. Manning’s update will provide the public with some critical observations made over the two decades during which this monitoring has occurred. All interested members of the public are invited. For further information, contact Carla Scheidlinger of the Owens Valley Committee at 873-0011 (day) or 873-8439 (evening).
Contacts:  Phone:

3/15/2004 Rose Foundation announces grant recipients 
The OVC Foundation will receive a grant-in-aid this year from the Rose Foundation (www.rosefdn.org) for legal assistance and educational support in efforts to monitor groundwater mining and to encourage adherence to water management and environmental mitigation agreements in the Owens Valley.

The announcement that the OVC Foundation would be one of the Rose Foundation's winter 2004 Northern California Grassroots Fund recipients came as welcome news in late February, particularly following news that LADWP had missed the first of a number of new deadlines established by a February 2004 Lower Owens River Project Stipulation and Order and preceding LADWP's March announcement of a new irrigation plan that would, by their own analysis, further reduce groundwater recharge in the beleaguered Owens Valley.

The Rose Foundation's Northern California Grassroots Fund is a collaborative fund that includes 12 California foundations among its granting agencies. Other winter 2004 grant recipients include Forest Unlimited, for a watershed organizing project; Mountain Meadows Conservancy, to help protect and conserve the Mountain Meadows basin and watershed; the Norcal Environmental Student Network, for environmental education; the Southeast Sector Community Development Corporation, to help support an children's environmental photo essay contest; the Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation, to support an oak habitat restoration project; and the West Side School Volunteer Recycling Program, to help start a student-led composting program at a K-6 elementary school.

Contacts:  Phone:

3/4/2004 Judge Sets Mandatory Settlement Conference Over Recent LORP Settlement Non-compliance 
As per the Feb. 10, 2004 LORP Stipulation and Order (S&O), LADWP and Inyo County were to have reached agreement by Feb. 17, 2004 on workplans for Yellow-billed Cuckoo habitats (Baker Ck. and Hogback Ck.) and for the use of 1600AF of "Additional Mitigation" water. The two parties did not reach agreement by Feb. 17, 2004.

As a result of a Sierra Club request, the Inyo Superior Court has set a Mandatory Settlement Conference for March 16, 2004 as called for in the S & O. The Court will attempt to help Inyo County and LADWP reach agreement on the workplans.
Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5807

3/2/2004 Inyo County and LADWP release status report 
REVIEW OF FEB. 20, 2004 STATUS REPORT BY INYO COUNTY AND LADWP
concerning LORP Settlement Requirements and Compliance

Mike Prather
March 2, 2004

Copies of Feb.20, 2004 Status Report and the LORP Settlement document (S & O) and schedule (xls.) by Inyo County and LADWP can be requested from

Tasks 1-5 and Section 10 are from the Feb. 10, 2004 S & O Schedule (xls.)

Task 1 – NEARLY COMPLETED
MWH/LADWP will respond to all DEIR comments and provide these responses to ICWD for their review, revision and eventual discussion.
Status- MWH/LADWP responded to all comments sections on time to most of the schedule deadlines except for the Funding Section. LA and Inyo have now met and agreed on this section and it is being written up by MWH.

Task 2 – NOT COMPLETED
Inyo and EPA will review all DEIR comment response sections provided by LADWP and send revisions back to LADWP.
Status - Inyo has not completed comments on all sections with EPA. See the Status Report (2.20.04) for exact issue sections (6-13).

Task 3 – NOT COMPLETED
MWH/LADWP will identify all issues requiring further discussion between the parties.
Status - Inyo and EPA have not reviewed all response sections together and provided these to LADWP. Therefore, LADWP has not been able to identify issues requiring further work.

Task 4 – MEETING INTENT OF THE TASK
Inyo and LADWP conduct weekly conference calls.
Status- Some weeks no calls and some weeks more than one, therefore effort has averaged the intent of the task.

Task 5 – COMPLETED
MWH create a Revised FEIR/EIS Schedule (xls).
Status- This was done. Some of the issue dates have remained the same and some have moved up or back. Compare the first schedule with the revised one. ALL issue sections must be finished by April 16 and the Administrative Draft of the FEIR/EIS will be out on the original date May 7, 2004.

Section 10 – NOT COMPLETED
LADWP and Inyo will agree on work plans for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (YBCU) and for the Additional Mitigation (Hines Spring) by Feb. 17, 2004, one week after the S & O was filed.
Status-Inyo and LADWP met Feb. 24, 2004 two weeks after the filing of the S & O to discuss work plans for the YBCU and Additional Mitigation. Met again Feb. 26, 2004.

THE SETTLEMENT:
STIPULATION AND ORDER (S & O ) DATES (filed Feb. 10. 2004)

1.) Work Plans – Feb. 17, 2004 – [NOT met on deadline]
Inyo and LA will agree on work plans for Yellow-billed Cuckoo Habitat Enhancement Plans (MOU III.A.1) and Additional Mitigation (MOU III.A.3) OR the Court shall schedule a mandatory settlement conference for the purpose of reaching agreement on work plans.

2.) Annual Reports - May 31, 2004 –
LADWP shall complete and release the annual report for 2003 (MOU III.H.). And on or about May 1st of every year thereafter LADWP and Inyo will jointly or independently release annual reports.

3.) Progress Reports –
Jan. 23, 2004 [completed]
Feb. 20, 2004[completed]
March 26, 2004
May 21, 2004.
LADWP and Inyo will file progress reports with the court. Also every two weeks thereafter until the FEIR is certified (June 4, June 18, July 2…).

4.) Progress Reports AFTER Final EIR (FEIR) Certification
(FEIR due June 23, 2004)
Inyo and LADWP will file jointly or independently the LAST DAY of each month until base flows have been implemented.



Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5807

12/18/2003 Inyo County approves tentative settlement of LORP litigation 
Press release, County of Inyo county counsel

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Water and Power Commissioners respectively approved a proposed settlement for litigation over the Lower Owens River Project December 16 and December 17.

Under the terms of a 1991 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) was required to have established a 40 cfs base flow in the Lower Owens River by June 2003. The MOU deadline passed without the commencement of the base flow. In addition, LADWP has not completed many of its other obligations under the MOU. Past efforts to secure the performance of these obligations have been unsuccessful.

The Sierra Club and the Owens Valley Committee filed a lawsuit September 26, 2003 that sought to have the Inyo County Superior Court set enforceable dates for the establishment of baseflows in the river and for completion of other MOU obligations. On December 4, 2003, the California Department of Fish and Game and the California State Lands Commission filed a similar lawsuit.

For several years, there has been disagreement over whether a pump station to be constructed as part of the Lower Owens River Project can be as large as 150 cfs, as proposed by LADWP, or is limited to 50 cfs by the MOU and 1991 Water Agreement. During this time, discussions concerning a settlement of the issue have been conducted without a resolution.

With the assistance of the judge assigned to the litigation, the Honorable Edward Denton, the attorneys for the parties to the litigation and for the County drafted a proposed settlement agreement. The key provisions of the proposed agreement are outlined below. Under the proposed agreement, all of the provisions will be enforceable orders of the Court.

LADWP will construct a "stand alone" (non expandable) pump station with a capacity of 50 cfs.
The final environmental documents addressing the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) must be completed by next June (2004).
Provided that permits necessary to conduct work preparatory to releasing flows into the river are issued as expected, water will resume flowing in approximately one year throughout the full 60 mile reach of the river from which the water was diverted to Los Angeles in 1913.
Flows will be increased in the river over several months beginning in the fall of 2005 until 40 cfs base flows have been established.
LADWP will provide up to $1.5 million to match grant funds obtained by the County to continue the County’s salt cedar control program in the LORP area.
Deadlines are set for the completion of the outstanding MOU commitments.

It is expected that the Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the California State Lands Commission will consider approval of the proposed settlement by the middle of next month. If all the parties approve the proposed settlement, it will be submitted to the Inyo County Superior Court together with a request that it become an order of the Court.

Copies of the proposed agreement are available to the public by contacting the Inyo County Water Department at 163 May Street, Bishop, California (760-872-1168).
Contacts:  Inyo County Water Department Phone: 760-872-1168

12/5/2003 California Attorney General files suit against DWP over LORP delays 
News release
Office of the Attorney General

(INDEPENDENCE) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed a lawsuit to force the City of Los Angeles to restore a 60-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River, a project required under the 1997 settlement of a legal action that established the city's groundwater pumping in Inyo County violated state law and caused substantial environmental damage to the Owens Valley.

"This project will provide long-needed restoration of habitats, wildlife and recreation in the Owens Valley," said Lockyer. "It's what the community wants. It's what the city promised. We're asking the court to make sure it happens."

The complaint filed today is the latest chapter in a 33-year litigation saga. The full story, however, dates back to 1913, and the completion of the first aqueduct to transport water from Inyo County to Los Angeles. That action essentially dammed part of the Owens River, which ultimately dried up Owens Lake.

In 1970, the city and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) finished a second aqueduct and filled it partly by increasing groundwater pumping in Inyo County. The county filed a lawsuit alleging the city and LADWP violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Specifically, the complaint alleged the two public entities failed to assess the environmental effects of the increased groundwater pumping and adopt measures to mitigate any harmful effects. The Third District Court of Appeal in 1973 upheld the challenge and issued an injunction that limited the groundwater pumping.

Ultimately, in 1991, the city and LADWP approved an environmental impact report (EIR), along with mitigation measures that included the Lower Owens River Project (LORP). They then asked the court of appeal to dismiss the litigation.

But the State Lands Commission and Department of Fish and Game – represented by the Attorney General--as well as the Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club-- objected. They wanted the city and LADWP held to an unequivocal commitment to implement the LORP.

The city and LADWP made that commitment in a 1997 settlement and agreed to meet specific deadlines for implementing the LORP and smaller mitigation measures. Six years later, none of the deadlines have been met, including the June 13, 2003 date for commencing flows in the Lower Owens River.

"Respondents have repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for the LORP," alleges Lockyer's complaint, filed on behalf of the State Lands Commission and Department of Fish and Game. "Respondents have neglected the LORP, unreasonably delayed the LORP, failed to make timely decisions concerning the LORP and its design, and failed to give the LORP sufficient priority ..."

The complaint asks the court to order the city and LADWP to take all necessary steps to implement the LORP, and to provide the court interim progress reports. Additionally, the complaint states, the court should impose further restrictions on the groundwater pumping if it deems such limitations necessary to force the city and LADWP to implement the LORP.

In adopting the EIR in 1991, the city and LADWP said the LORP would help offset the damage caused by the increased groundwater pumping to springs, marsh habitat, vegetation and wildlife in the Owens Valley. The LORP will help restore habitats for fish and cottonwood and willow trees and provide resulting benefits for native fish species and birds. The project also will aid Delta wetlands, and enhance recreational activities, including fishing.
Contacts:  Phone:

10/5/2003 OVC offers programs and field trips  
The Owens Valley Committee offers programs/presentations and field trips to groups anywhere in southern California. The theme of this offering surrounds Owens Valley land and water issues, particularly those involving the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (a 200,000-plus acre land owner in the Owens Valley). Topics covered are:

*the rewatering of 62 miles of the Lower Owens River (LORP)

*Owens Lake PM-10 dust abatement and the attraction of thousands of migrating shorebirds

*groundwater pumping by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for export and its destructive impacts on the Owens Valley environment

*land and water managment practices of LADWP

*the Inyo County / Los Angeles Long-Term Water Agreement

Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760-876-5807

10/5/2003 OVC applies for America's Most Endangered Rivers status for Lower Owens River 
American Rivers



America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2004
Nomination Form


I. GENERAL INFORMATION

Name of River: Lower Owens River (from the Los Angeles Aqueduct intake to Owens Lake; 62 miles)
Location: Inyo County, California (river lies in eastern Sierra and western edge of the Great Basin, close to the eastern base of Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states.)
Nominating Group: The Owens Valley Committee
Contact Persons: Michael Prather and Ceal Klingler
Address: P.O. Drawer D, Lone Pine, CA 93545
Phone: 760.876.5807 Fax: 760.876.1845
Email: prather@qnet.com
Website: www.ovcweb.org

II. RIVER, THREAT(S) AND DECISION POINTS

THE RIVER

The 62-mile long Lower Owens River twists through the Owens Valley between the Sierra Nevada and the White-Inyo Mountains in eastern California. Before 1913, the river collected surface water and snowmelt from surrounding mountain ranges and flowed into 110-square-mile Owens Lake. Together, the river and the lake provided irrigation water for aboriginal Paiutes, farmers and ranchers, food and refuge for millions of migrating waterfowl, and habitat for many endemic species of plants and animals.
In 1913 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) diverted the river's flow in order to supply water to Los Angeles. This left the lower reaches of the Owens River--and consequently the lake--dry or nearly so. The river below the diversion is the "Lower Owens River." It is an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA) that will be enhanced greatly if and when flows begin and the riparian habitat recovers. Restoration of 62 miles of riparian habitat is vital in California (a state of 35 million people and growing), where 90% of that habitat has been lost .
In 1997, renewed hope for the Lower Owens River emerged after 25 years of legal battles. As partial mitigation for groundwater pumping impacts LADWP agreed to work with Inyo County to restore a steady (not intermittent) flow to all 62 miles of the Lower Owens River. The agreed-upon deadline of June 13, 2003 for beginning flows has been missed due to unending delay and obstruction by LADWP -- water delayed is money saved from their perspective. As it now stands steady flows may begin in 2005 if public sentiment can be garnered. The Lower Owens River has become a symbol of western water wars and a test case for water negotiation and environmental remediation in the west.

THE THREATS

- Project delays

The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) may be released in the spring of 2004. It will certainly be challenged in court for its numerous inadequacies. Even if the FEIR is speedily accepted, flows probably will not begin until at least 2005, two years after the original deadline and nearly 35 years after unmitigated groundwater pumping damage began in the Owens Valley. LADWP benefits monetarily from every dispute, delay or reduction in water released; every drop of water saved is a drop of water sold.

- Poor monitoring and adaptive management plan and poor funding

The success of the LORP depends explicitly on monitoring and adaptive management. Changes in riparian habitat should affect management decisions such as amount of water released, where grazing occurs, etc. Unfortunately, the draft plan for the LORP mandates only infrequent monitoring, sets no thresholds or triggers for taking action if negative changes or even disasters are detected, and does not delineate how management will adapt to changes. Worse, the plan provides for monitoring only "to the extent that funding is available"--and funding, according to the plan, may not be available. Adaptive management measures such as control of non-native beaver, continuing eradication of tamarisk (salt cedar) and reasonable channel work for flows also lack full funding, although those measures are essential to the restoration of the river.

- Dispute resolution process rewards LADWP delays

In a project of this size, disputes are certain, particularly because no adaptive management standards or thresholds have been set. However, the LORP plan has no final process for resolving a dispute. Consequently, if LADWP and Inyo County disagree about whether a problem exists (as they have in the past) or if they disagree about whether anything should be done (as they have before), no action is required and LADWP benefits from money and water saved by the dispute.

- Lower volume flows than those that created Owens River Delta wetlands

The draft project's flow component would reduce water flows to the Owens River Delta (the most biologically productive portion of the Lower Owens River) and to the delta's brine pool transition area, which currently provides food and habitat to a wide variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. If reduced water flows damage the river delta, as they likely will, it's possible no one will record the change (inadequate monitoring); that if it's recorded no one will see it as a problem (no triggers or thresholds); and that if it's declared a problem no one will do anything about it (no dispute resolution).

- Lack of public awareness

The Owens Valley exemplifies twentieth century colonial water exploitation, and it stands as a warning to all other areas of California. Los Angeles has a population of millions of people, yet few are aware that their city owns and manages more than 200,000 acres in the Owens Valley (200 miles north). Without pressure from Los Angeles' voting public and correspondingly anxious elected officials, LADWP has little motivation to finish the Lower Owens River Project, much less finish it well.

DECISION POINTS

Currently the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Inyo County are jointly responding to comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Lower Owens River Project. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) is scheduled to be released by LADWP to the public in December 2003. Certification of that document by the LADWP Board of Commissioners is required for base flows to begin.The December 2003 date is optimistic and will probably be missed; the document will more likely come out in the spring of 2004 or even summer.
The Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club anticipate filing suit over the adequacy of the FEIR. There will be some measure of delay due to this action. However, an effort to negotiate a settlement to expedite matters and begin water flowing can be expected.
Many, but not enough forces in Los Angeles would like to see this project finally happen. Therefore, public pressure on LADWP and the Los Angeles City Council after release of the FEIR will be critical for the most favorable outcome. Given that Los Angeles is one of the largest media markets in the world, any publicity about the project and its potential will be extremely helpful and timely.
There is a strong chance that the FEIR will be out AFTER the 2004 America's Most Endangered Rivers report. If so, and if the Lower Owens River is selected as an endangered river, much needed publicity will be brought to bear on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the City of Los Angeles to issue an adequate environmental document for the Lower Owens River Project.
With 62 miles of the Lower Owens River slated for restoration the LADWP must be urged by the citizens of Los Angeles and the rest of the nation to finish the Lower Owens River Project and finish it well. "Remember the Owens Valley" is a rallying cry that everyone can understand. Let's remember it for a good reason today and not for the destructive horrors that it conjures from the past.


III. ADDITIONAL MATERIALS AND MEDIA

(References and Endnotes for section II follow)

Are you willing to hold or participate in a news event should your river be selected?
Yes__X__ No____

Can you provide media expertise or personnel? Yes_X__ No____

REFERENCES

Chalfant, W.A. 1975. The Story of Inyo. Bishop, California: Chalfant Press.

California State Lands Commission. 2003. Subject: Draft Environmental
Impact Report/Statement (DEIR/S), Lower Owens River Project (LORP),
November 1, 2002. Comments submitted to Clarence Martin, Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and to Gail Louis, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) January 14, 2003. Sacramento,
California.

City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. 2003. LA Aqueduct: Eastern Sierra Recreation. Information downloaded September 26, 2003 from web page:

City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, County of Inyo, California Department of Fish and Game, California State Lands Commission, Sierra Club, Owens Valley Committee, and Carla Scheidlinger. 1997. Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the County of Inyo, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California State Lands Commission, the Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, and Carla Scheidlinger. Inyo County, California. Downloaded September 25, 2003 from .

City of Los Angeles, Department of Water and Power (LADWP), U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Inyo County Water
Department, County of Inyo. 2002. Draft Environmental Impact Report and
Environmental Impact Statement - Lower Owens River Project. Inyo
County, California. SCH#2000011075

Owens Valley Committee. 2003. Comments on Draft EIR/EIS for the
Lower Owens River Project. Comments submitted to Clarence Martin, Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) January 14, 2003. Inyo
County, California. (Note: These and other agencies' comments are downloadable from http://www.ovcweb.org)

Reisner, M. 1993. Cadillac Desert. New York, New York: Penguin Books.

Riparian Habitat Joint Venture. 2001. Anne Chrisney, coordinator. Information downloaded September 28, 2003 from web page: .

Sharp, R.P. & Glazner, A.F. 1997. Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and
Owens Valley. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company.

United States Census Bureau. 2001. State and County Quickfacts: California. Information downloaded September 28, 2003 from web page:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2002. February 22 letter from
Janet Parrish, Region IX Monitoring and Assessment Office, San
Francisco, to Jerry Gewe, Assistant General Manager - Water, Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Walton, J. 1993. Western Times and Water Wars. Berkeley, California:
University of California Press.




Contacts:  Phone:

9/12/2003 NEW!! Eastern Sierra Birding Trail Map 
The Eastern Sierra of Inyo and Mono counties has now joined other important wildlife areas around the United States with the release of the new EASTERN SIERRA BIRDING TRAIL MAP. This vehicle-based birding trail map was developed jointly by the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, the Mono Lake Committee and the Owens Valley Committee and covers 200 miles on and off of the Highway 395 corridor from Owens Lake to Bridgeport. Birders (formerly “bird watchers”) using the map are guided to 38 different birding locations where hiking trails allow even further exploration. Visitor information, directions to the sites, seasons to visit, the types of habitats and what species of birds might be seen are all provided. Varied habitats from high in the Sierra Nevada and White Mountains down to the valley floors are a rich sampler of the incredible natural diversity that exists in the Eastern Sierra. From bluebirds and blue grouse to wood ducks and warblers there are birds and other wildlife for everyone. This is in addition to the unparalleled scenic landscapes and natural quiet.
Among the fastest growing outdoor activities in America, birding is attracting visitors to rural areas and thereby supporting local economies, helping with wildlife conservation and providing low impact recreational use. Many birders plan entire vacations designed around the species of birds that they hope to see. The Eastern Sierra Birding Trail Map will attract everyone with an interest in birds and nature and will surely rank as one of the top birding trail maps in the nation.
For $50.00 per year business sponsors will receive Eastern Sierra Birding Trail maps, a 2004 sticker for their front window and will be listed on the birding trail’s website as a supporter. Initial sponsors are credited for both 2003 and 2004.
For a free copy of the Eastern Sierra Birding Trail Map or sponsorship contact either the Owens Valley Committee (760.876.1845 www.ovcweb.org) or the Mono Lake Committee (760.647.6595 www.monolake.org). Also look on the web soon at {http://www.easternsierrabirdingtrail.org }.

Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760-876-5807

6/1/2003 Highway Clean Up 

Meet at Diaz Lake at 7 A.M.
Contacts:  Judy Wickman ajwickman@qnet.com Phone: 876-5202

5/2/2003 LADWP PROPOSED PUMPING FOR 2003/04 
More declining vegetation and lowering of water tables. To review the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power 2003 proposed groundwater pumping plan go to:

www.inyowater.org/pumping_programs/default.html
Contacts:  michael prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760-876-5807

5/2/2003 Inyo County's response to LADWP pumping plan  
Review Inyo County's response to LA's 2003 pumping plan wellfield by wellfield. Vegetation decline continues, water tables still dropping...

www.inyowater.org/pumping_programs/default.html
Contacts:  michael prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760-876-5807

1/4/2003 LORP DEIR/EIS issue for comment: noxious weed control 
As the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement public comment deadline draws closer, we're adding copy-and-paste-ready paragraphs on pertinent issues to our website "News" area; modify and add them to your own comment letter as you prefer and as they become available, or use them in combination with our sample comment letter (which also appears in "News"). For more information, see our LORP DEIR/EIS flyer or click on website "Issues" and then click on "Comment on LORP DEIR/EIS."

The issue: NOXIOUS WEED CONTROL

Explanation and overview:

The LORP will create new habitats through rewatering that will be susceptible to invasive noxious weeds, such as saltcedar. Saltcedar outcompetes native plants, alters natural ecosystems, increases fire frequency and causes a significant decline in biodiversity of plants, insects and animals. However, the DEIR/EIS states that if outside funding sources for saltcedar control dry up, then "... control of this exotic species in the Owens Valley will be discontinued and the impact of new saltcedar growth resulting from the LORP would be significant." How can the habitat goals of the LORP be achieved without a fully funded noxious weed control program designed for the LORP areas? The effective control of invasive noxious weeds is crucial if the LORP is ever to be considered a success.

It is stated that "with the implementation of the LORP, this (Inyo County saltcedar control) program will be directed not only to saltcedar stands presently in existence but also to new growth resulting from the LORP." Impacts of the LORP need to be addressed in the LORP DEIR, and not deferred to a separate pre-existing program with unsecured funding.

Sample Statement:

All of the LORP areas and habitat goals are at risk if saltcedar and other noxious weeds are not controlled. The spread of saltcedar presents a serious problem in the Owens Valley and the LORP must realistically address this problem. It is in LADWP's best interest to control this water-demanding weed as soon as possible. The environmental degradation associated with further weed infestations will only become more extreme and more expensive to control the longer they are ignored. If the LORP is truly to be "one of the most environmentally significant river habitat restorations ever undertaken in the United States," as Mark Hill, LADWP consultant, states it is, then it must include provisions for guaranteed funding for control of saltcedar and other noxious weeds.

Contacts:  Phone:

1/4/2003 LORP DEIR/EIS issue for comment: brine pool transition area 
As the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement public comment deadline draws closer, we're adding copy-and-paste-ready paragraphs on pertinent issues to our website "News" area; modify and add them to your own comment letter as you prefer and as they become available, or use them in combination with our sample comment letter (which also appears in "News"). For more information, see our LORP DEIR/EIS flyer or click on website "Issues" and then click on "Comment on LORP DEIR/EIS."

The issue: BRINE POOL TRANSITION AREA

Explanation and overview:

o Insist that significant impacts to shorebird habitat in the brine pool transition area can and must be avoided.

A significant and unavoidable (Class I) impact identified in the Draft EIR/EIS is a decrease in shorebird habitat in the brine pool transition area just to the south of the Delta Habitat Area. This would be caused by a reduction in the amount of water flowing from the Delta to this area. Under LADWP's project proposal this would be a reduction from what currently flows to this area.

LADWP states (Table S-1) there is no feasible mitigation for this significant impact due to an existing court injunction which prohibits them from releasing water to Owens Lake except to meet the goals of the LORP. For about 15 years up to the present LADWP has released small amounts of water out on to Owens Lake. However, LADWP does not admit that they have been in violation of the exisiting injunction by releasing the current flows; flows that have supported thousands of ducks and geese and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds in the fall and winter for many years. Was that illegal? The State Lands Commission and mining company that originally obtained the court injunction have not taken legal action. If the current flows are allowable, it is inappropriate to argue that maintaining those flows under the project is not feasible. The Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club believe that LADWP is mistaken in its interpretation of the existing court injunction. That injunction was amended in September 2000 to allow releases of water onto Owens Lake for the purpose of implementing the LORP. LADWP could and should completely avoid this impact by maintaining current flows.

No mention is made in the Draft EIR/EIS that Owens Lake is part of the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan or that it is a Nationally Significant Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society due to its use by thousands of migrating shorebirds and as a nesting site for snowy plovers. Continuing flows to this transition area would avoid significant impacts. Additionally, if LADWP insists that this impact is unavoidable, they have an obligation under CEQA to explore mitigation alternatives that are feasible. They have not done so, but they must.

How does the International Migratory Bird Treaty apply to this "unmitigable impact" of drying up the brine pool transition zone? Recent observations confirm that LADWP’s current practice of drying up the delta and transition to brine pool in late spring and summer has left known nests and broods of rare nesting snowy plover without water and therefore certainly doomed. Recent data shows the intense use of the transition to brine pool habitat by thousands of migrating shorebirds moving back and forth from Canada/Alaska and Central and South America each fall and spring.


Sample Statement:

Impact To Brine Pool Transition Area: The Class I impact to shorebird habitat in the brine pool transition area, identified in Draft EIR/EIS Table S-1, can and must be avoided. This is an area that is used by thousands of ducks and geese and tens of thousands of shorebirds. It is in an area that has been recognized by the National Audubon Society as a Nationally Significant Important Bird Area and is part of the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan. This is a very important wildlife habitat. The existing flows to this transition area have been released by LADWP for many years. Have they been in violation of the existing court injunction that they say would prohibit mitigation of this impact? If the current flows are allowable, it is inapproriate to argue that maintaining those flows under the project is not feasible. LADWP can and must avoid this impact by maintaining existing flows and by not allowing this area to dry up in late spring and summer as currently happens. Additionally, if LADWP insists that this impact is unavoidable, they have an obligation under CEQA to explore mitigation alternatives that are feasible.

Contacts:  Phone:

1/3/2003 Sample comment letter on LORP DEIR/EIS 
Perhaps you'd like to submit a comment letter on the LORP DEIR/EIS but don't have time to write one, or maybe you have a few comments but want to say more. If so, feel free to copy and paste part or all of our sample letter below into your own word processor and modify it as much or as little as you like (please do be sure to type in your own name rather than allowing Prudent Waters to take the credit). As the LORP DEIR/EIS comment deadline draws closer, we'll be adding copy-and-paste-ready paragraphs on other issues to our website "News" area; copy, paste, or part them into your comment letter as you like and as they become available.

Mr. Clarence Martin
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
300 Mandich Street
Bishop, CA 93514

Dear Mr. Martin,

I am writing to comment on the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement.

I appreciate the great potential of the LORP. However, the DEIR/EIS fails to describe essential components of the project and presents project alternatives that directly violate the 1991 Long Term Water Agreement and the established project goals. Some of my concerns include:

1) Size of the pump station and delta flows: A 150 cfs pump station violates the Inyo-LA 1991 Water Agreement. LADWP has not justified using a pump station that is three times larger than the water agreement allows. A larger pump station won't allow enough water to reach the delta and may help LADWP to pump more groundwater from the valley. LADWP should select the 50 cfs pump station and 9 cfs annual average delta baseflows. This option allows the maximum amount of water flow to the delta under the agreements and approaches current flows. This is needed to meet the delta habitat goal of maintaining existing and new delta habitats for waterfowl and to comply with the water agreement.

2) Funding: Monitoring and adaptive management are absolutely essential to the success of the LORP, but the DEIR/EIS repeatedly states that funding limitations may prevent their full implementation. To meet its obligations, LADWP should select funding option 2, which is the only option that adequately funds the LORP.

3) Recreation plan: There is no recreation plan in the DEIR/EIS, nor is there a description of current and anticipated recreational uses of the LORP area. The document should contain a thorough assessment of current and potential recreational use in the LORP area and a plan to manage that recreation in order to protect natural habitats and cultural resources.

Mr. Martin, the LORP is a valuable project, and I want it to work. I urge LADWP to abide by the terms of the water agreement and the goals of the project, thoroughly describe all management plans to the public, choose the least environmentally damaging alternatives, and guarantee adequate funding.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

Sincerely,

Prudent Waters, Concerned Citizen
Contacts:  Phone:

1/2/2003 See the text-only version of our LORP DEIR/EIS flyer 
The Owens Valley Committee released a brief flyer today to aid people in making comments on the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact statement. The text of that flyer (including a sample comment letter) appears below. If you'd like to submit a comment letter but don't have the time to write, please feel free to copy the letter that appears below and use it or modify it.

LORP:
An environmental mitigation project
... or just a third barrel of the
Los Angeles aqueduct?

IT’S UP TO YOU!
Comments on the Lower Owens River Project Draft EIR due
January 14, 2003

What is the LORP?

Since 1913, Los Angeles' surface water diversions and groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley have destroyed springs and seeps, dried the Owens Lake and the lower Owens River, and caused incalculable harm to migrating and endemic wildlife.

The LA Department of Water and Power is legally obligated to compensate for severe 1970-1990 groundwater pumping damage by implementing the Lower Owens River Project (LORP). The LORP promises to restore 62 miles of the lower Owens River; to maintain, enhance and create hundreds of acres of new habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife; and to greatly improve the warm water fishery. The project has enormous potential for enhancing recreation and improving local economies.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement (DEIR/EIS) for the project was released for public comment (that means you) on November 1, 2002. As it stands, the document inadequately describes the Lower Owens River Project. If the LORP is implemented as described in the DEIR/EIS, LADWP won't fulfill its legal obligations and may even be able to export more groundwater from the Owens Valley.

Your comments are needed to ensure that LADWP both meets its legal obligations and repairs some of the severe environmental damage it has caused.

What to say

The DEIR/EIS fails to describe essential components of the project and presents alternatives that directly violate the 1991 Long Term Water Agreement. We urge you to:
1) Insist on a 50 cfs pump station and 9 cfs baseflows to the Owens River delta
LADWP’s chief purpose in the eastern Sierra is the export of water to LA. LADWP agreed to a maximum 50 cfs capacity pump station in 1991 to alleviate Owens Valley residents' fears that they would use the LORP to export more groundwater. In the DEIR/EIS project description, LADWP proposes to triple the size of that pump station, in violation of the 1991 Water Agreement.

The larger pump station would provide LADWP with the opportunity to export more groundwater. The EPA has already determined that unless LADWP intends to increase groundwater pumping, a larger pump station is not economically or environmentally justified. LADWP has already hired a consultant to explore more groundwater pumping, but asks the public to simply trust them not to use the larger pump station to export more water.

Furthermore, under the LADWP proposal, flows to the delta will be much lower than they have been over the past decade or more. Lower flows may not maintain existing delta habitats and are unlikely to create new habitats as required by the LORP goals. They will damage the area just below the delta, within an Audubon Society Nationally Significant Important Bird Area. A larger pump station would significantly worsen this problem by eliminating seasonal habitat flows to the river delta.

To avoid the possibility of more groundwater pumping, avoid damage to the delta, and encourage creation of new delta habitats as required, demand implementation of the smaller 50 cfs pump station alternative and the highest possible annual average delta baseflows of 9 cfs.

2) Demand funding option 2 and insist that LADWP ensure full funding for the LORP
LADWP is legally required to periodically assess how well the LORP is working and adjust management accordingly. But the DEIR/EIS states that "monitoring and adaptive management," which are critical to the success of the project, will only be adopted if funding is available. LADWP has made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from Owens Valley water and will spend more on public relations in one year than the predicted 15-year budget shortfall for the LORP. Adaptive management won’t work without money. Demand that LADWP meet its legal obligations and commit to funding the full project by choosing funding option two.

3) Insist on a recreation plan

The DEIR/EIS fails to describe adequate plans for balancing different recreational uses with grazing and habitat protection. It has no plans for managing new and increased recreational uses expected to result from the LORP, or for protecting cultural resources. There is also no assessment of current conditions in the lower Owens River area so that changes in usage can be noted and managed. Ask for a thorough assessment of current and potential recreational use in the LORP area and for a plan to manage that recreation in order to protect natural habitats and cultural resources.

Where can I find more information?

To review the LORP DEIR/EIS on the web visit http://lorpeir.com or go to one of the Inyo County public libraries, the Inyo County Water Department (163 May Street in Bishop), Inyo County Planning Department, Owens Valley Indian Water Commission, the San Francisco EPA Library or LADWP offices. Also, check our website for updates and additional DEIR/EIS issues you may want to include in your comment letter (http://www.ovcweb.org).

Donations
To support our work and the costs of printing and distributing this flyer, please send tax-deductible contributions to the OVC Foundation, P.O. Drawer D, Lone Pine, CA 93545. Ph/fax 760.876.1845

Where to send your letter

Send or fax written comments by January 14, 2003 (Attn: Clarence Martin, LADWP, 300 Mandich Street, Bishop, CA 93514, fax 760-873-0266). If you can, please also send a copy of your comments to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, P.O. Drawer N, Independence, CA 93526.

Sample Letter

Mr. Clarence Martin
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
300 Mandich Street
Bishop, CA 93514

Dear Mr. Martin,
I am writing to comment on the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement.

I appreciate the great potential of the LORP. However, the DEIR/EIS fails to describe essential components of the project and presents project alternatives that directly violate the 1991 Long Term Water Agreement and the established project goals. Some of my concerns include:

1) Size of the pump station and delta flows: A 150 cfs pump station violates the Inyo-LA 1991 Water Agreement. LADWP has not justified using a pump station that is three times larger than the water agreement allows. A larger pump station won't allow enough water to reach the delta and may help LADWP to pump more groundwater from the valley. LADWP should select the 50 cfs pump station and 9 cfs annual average delta baseflows. This option allows the maximum amount of water flow to the delta under the agreements and approaches current flows. This is needed to meet the delta habitat goal of maintaining existing and new delta habitats for waterfowl and to comply with the water agreement.

2) Funding: Monitoring and adaptive management are absolutely essential to the success of the LORP, but the DEIR/EIS repeatedly states that funding limitations may prevent their full implementation. To meet its obligations, LADWP should select funding option 2, which is the only option that adequately funds the LORP.

3) Recreation plan: There is no recreation plan in the DEIR/EIS, nor is there a description of current and anticipated recreational uses of the LORP area. The document should contain a thorough assessment of current and potential recreational use in the LORP area and a plan to manage that recreation in order to protect natural habitats and cultural resources.

Mr. Martin, the LORP is a valuable project, and I want it to work. I urge LADWP to abide by the terms of the water agreement and the goals of the project, thoroughly describe all management plans to the public, choose the least environmentally damaging alternatives, and guarantee adequate funding.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

Sincerely,

Prudent Waters, Concerned Citizen
Contacts:  Phone:

12/18/2002 Peruse OVC talking points January 2, 2003 
The Owens Valley Committee will distribute a flyer with detailed talking points on the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement January 2, 2003. Talking points will also be posted on our website under "News" on or after January 2.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) must implement the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) as mitigation for groundwater pumping impacts that have occurred since 1970. The LORP will rewater 62 miles of the Lower Owens River between the LA Aqueduct intake and the river delta, a stretch of the river that dried and disappeared after opening of the LA aqueduct in 1913. The LORP will also create hundreds of acres of wetland habitats at the delta and the Blackrock waterfowl habitat area. This habitat restoration could be enormously beneficial to wildlife and create many new recreational opportunities such as canoeing, kayaking, birding and fishing. It has the potential to be of tremendous benefit to our region, both environmentally and economically.

The LORP DEIR/S, which was released November 1, 2002, describes the LORP, its anticipated environmental impacts, and alternatives. Public comments on the DEIR/S are due January 14, 2003; address them to Clarence Martin, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 300 Mandich Street, Bishop, CA 93514 (or fax to: 760-873-0266).

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO COMMENT
LADWP’s chief purpose in the Eastern Sierra is the export of water to Los Angeles. The Draft EIR/EIS makes it clear that LADWP is not fully committed to making the LORP live up to its enormous potential. Problems with the document are numerous and include:
* A dispute over the size of a pump station that will return most of the river water to the aqueduct just before the river flows into the Owens Lake river delta. LADWP’s proposed larger pump station would restrict flows to the delta that are necessary to meet habitat goals.
* Uncertainty about funding: The document states multiple times that funding limitations may prevent the full implementation of the Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan. Monitoring and adaptive management are key to successful implemention. Additionally, the plan is incomplete.
* No funding and little interest in controlling beavers, tules and salt cedar; all of which could severely compromise the success of the project if left unrestrained.
* No recreation plan to manage potential impacts from the anticipated large increase in recreational use once the project is established.

WHERE TO GO FOR MORE INFORMATION
More information on the LORP DEIR/S and a full list of LORP/DEIR/S locations can be found on our website under "Issues" (go to issues and click on "Comment on the LORP DEIR/S" ). Copies can be obtained at the LADWP office in Bishop (760-872-1104), the EPA in San Francisco (415-972-3467), or on the web at www.lorpeir.com. Click on previous website news headlines for more information on what we’re doing (for example, see 11/26/02 for an issues list).

DONATIONS
To help with our work on this issue, including printing and distributing the flyer, please send tax-deductible contributions to the OVC Foundation, P.O. Drawer D, Lone Pine, CA 93545 (click on "Contact Us" on our website for more information).


Contacts:  lorp@ovcweb.org Phone:

12/5/2002 Lower Owens River Project faces potential delays 
Last September 12th Superior Court Judge Ed Denton ordered the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Inyo County to release the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) by November first. Judge Denton's order, in response to the case brought by the Sierra Club and Owens Valley Committee, resulted in the release of the document on that date, more than two years after the original deadline. The LORP calls for rewatering of the river between the LA Aqueduct intake and the river delta, rehabilitating 63 miles of old river bed to habitat levels not seen since the opening of the LA aqueduct in 1913.

The LORP has the potential to be of tremendous benefit regionally, both environmentally and economically, and has been eagerly anticipated for more than a decade by many in the Owens Valley. However, the project may encounter more delays because of a continuing disagreement over the size of the pump station that will return most of the river water to the Los Angeles Aqueduct just before it flows to Owens Lake.

LADWP has proposed that the pump station have a capacity of 150 cfs (cubic feet per second). This is large enough to capture a majority of the springtime seasonal flows that would otherwise escape to the Owens River delta during the two-week high flow period. Inyo County and the Environmental Protection Agency have proposed a 50 cfs capacity pump station which they believe is the size required by the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement. This is sufficient capacity to capture the 40 cfs baseflow that will be in the river for 50 weeks a year. As LADWP concludes in the DEIR (p.S-9), "It is anticipated that dispute resolution, litigation, or agreement (following issuance of the Final EIR/EIS and project decisions by the involved agencies) will determine which of these alternative pump station capacities will be implemented."

A LORP pump station of up to 50 cfs capacity is called for in the Water Agreement, but LADWP believes that language in a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) allows them to build the larger station. The other MOU parties (Inyo County, Sierra Club, Owens Valley Committee, California Department of Fish and Game, and State Lands Commission) disagree with the City’s interpretation of the MOU.

As Sierra Club spokesman Mark Bagley, of Bishop, wrote in a letter printed by the Los Angeles Times Sept. 18, "The Sierra Club and other MOU parties believe that the larger pump station violates the Water Agreement and would restrict flows to the delta that are necessary to meet habitat goals agreed to in the MOU. More incredibly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency's analysis, in addition to our own analysis of DWP's numbers, show that the larger pump station does not make sense economically." The Owens Valley Committee has speculated that the real purpose of the larger pump station is to export additional groundwater from the Owens Valley.

The Environmental Protection Agency, in a February 2002 letter to LADWP *, stated that "LADWP's proposal for the larger pump station does not appear to be economically or environmentally justified." Additionally, the Agency concluded that "the excess, under utilized capacity (of the larger pump station) would provide strong incentive for LADWP to pump additional water from the Owens Valley."

In addition to two pump station options, the DEIR presents two different assessments of the impacts to the delta for each option. Sierra Club spokesman Bagley said, "It is highly unusual for an EIR to have two separate impact assessments on the same issue. I think the assessments done by URS Corporation, and backed by Inyo County, make a lot more sense and have much better supporting arguments than the other assessments backed by DWP. Public comments on this will be very important in order for the LORP to be properly implemented."

Two meetings have been scheduled for initial public comments on the DEIS. The first meeting is in Lone Pine on December 4th at Statham Hall, 138 N. Jackson St., and the second meeting is in Bishop, on December 5th, at the Home Economics Building, Tri County Fairgrounds. Both meetings are at 6:00 pm. Written comments can also be submitted to LADWP, 300 Mandich Lane, Bishop, CA 93514 or via fax to 760-873-0266. All comments must be received by January 14, 2003 and will be incorporated into and addressed in the Final EIR.
_____________
* the full text of the EPA letter can be found on the OVC website under "News"
Contacts:  Phone:

11/26/2002 Volunteers lengthen list of LORP DEIR/S issues 
"Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement" (LORP DEIR/S) takes a long time to say and--if you have a copy of it—much longer to pore over. Nevertheless, the project, which will rewater more than sixty miles of the Lower Owens River, deserves copious contemplation. With that in mind, concerned LORP DEIR/S readers met November 21 with Mark Bagley to discuss what to look for in the hefty document and to delegate tasks to people who’ve volunteered to help evaluate, process, and publicize the LORP DEIR/S. The resulting list of important issues and focus areas appears below.

If you haven’t signed up yet, and if 1) you would like to help critique, process, or publicize the LORP/DEIR/S, or 2) you don’t want to read the LORP but still want to help (we’ve got plenty of tasks available, including photocopying and distributing flyers), or even 3) you don’t want to help but would like to receive one of our upcoming how-to-comment brochures on the LORP/DEIR/S,
please e-mail us at lorp@ovcweb.org. Include your name, address, and phone number, and tell us whether you prefer to be contacted by phone or by e-mail. For more information about the LORP or the DEIR/S, see other news items and the issues list below or follow the LORP links in the "Issues" section of our website.

The people who are chairing each of the main issues (in capitals below) are responsible for comments on that issue. They should analyze it with input from the other folks signed up for a particular sub-issue, seek help from other volunteers when needed, incorporate comments from others who send it, and prepare the first (rough) draft for submittal to the chairperson for document preparation no later than Dec. 12. This early date for the first draft is so we can use that information in preparing a flyer for public distribution by the end of December.

We encourage other input. If you have not signed up for any issues or if you have comments on issues other than the ones you signed up for, please send your comments to the appropriate Chair for each issue you’re commenting on. (E-mail lorp@ovcweb.org if you’ve misplaced your list of issues, names of Chairs, and contact numbers.)

The main items (in capitals below) cover the four physical areas of the LORP and chapter or subchapter heading in the document. For each of the first four main items and some of the others we need to look at the project description (Chapter 2), impact assessment and mitigation measures. In looking at the project description portion we need to analyze how the project described corresponds with the project as described in the MOU. We need to pay close attention to the goals for the project as stated in the MOU and determine if the project proposed is likely to meet those goals.

RIVERINE RIPARIAN SYSTEM
Water quality issues
Flow release regime and potential fish kills
Fish management; talk with CDFG to see what their concerns are
Seasonal habitat flows: release from intake only vs. augmentation of flow from downstream spillgates--how might this affect the ability to achieve project goals?
Beaver control
Tule control
Land management along and adjacent to river
Habitat indicator species (not mentioned in DEIR?)
General Wildlife discussion (not mentioned in DEIR)
Cultural resources; coordinate with tribes to see what their issues are
Where does the water come from? Will wells be used directly or for "replacement water"?
Roads: (Access) where will they be?
Burn Policy
What levels/standards will be used to trigger changes to management? Lack of criteria in DEIR

DELTA HABITAT AREA
Habitat goals: What are DWP’s goals here? What is in MOU?
Present conditions: what are they?
Baseflows; water budget to maintain present conditions
Pulseflows
Seasonal flows
Pump station alternatives; will the fight for a 50 cfs pumpback delay project?
Transition area to brine pool; what are flows and management issues?
Impacts to existing wetlands due to lower flows
Wildlife and habitat indicator species
Cattle drift and grazing management
What levels/standards will be used to trigger changes to management? Lack of criteria in DEIR

BLACKROCK WATERFOWL HABITAT AREA
Habitat goals
Flooding regime
Inflows; where does the water come from?
Outflows; where does the water go?
Management of flow in and out for pupfish and tui chub
Wildlife and habitat indicator species
Land management: grazing, recreation, etc.
Weed control
Controlled burns? Burn policy is vague
Tule control
Cultural resources; coordinate with tribes to see what their issues are
What levels/standards will be used to trigger changes to management? Lack of criteria in DEIR

OFF-RIVER LAKES AND PONDS
Wildlife and habitat indicator species (not mentioned in DEIR)

DIVERSION, PUMP STATION, POWER LINE AND ROAD SURFACING
o Pump station design: is the 50 cfs station really 50 cfs? Do both station designs have the capacity to properly release adequate flows to the delta? Can they adequately gauge the flows? Why don’t they have as complete a design for 50 cfs as the 150 cfs station?
Impact of muck in pumpback forebay – will there be dredging and where will spoils go?
Impacts on air quality
Impacts on fish; talk with CDFG to see what their concerns are
Impacts on wildlife
Impacts on vegetation
Cultural resources; coordinate with tribes to see what their issues are
Impact of weeds

T & E SPECIES MANAGEMENT
Plants
Wildlife
Amphibians

RECREATION PLAN
Plan is vague
Day use only?
Hunting allowed
Ask for no plinking
How many people without crowding?
Sustainability is important
Trash/potties
Boating? Motorized vs. non-motorized
Address long term use
ORV use?
Mosquito control
Equestrian use?
Where are figures for different uses?

LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN
Grazing
Woodcutting
Road access; get rid of some, improve others
Mosquito control

MONITORING AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT
Lack of reporting?
How will they report to the public?
Where does the money to monitor come from?
Consider impact of discontinuation of monitoring
Look at the MOU (including Attachment A: LORP Ecosystem Management Plan, Action Plan and Concept Document)
Organizational structure? Who monitors?
What does Inyo County pay for vs. DWP: 50/50?
Are lack of money arguments valid, given expenditures in other areas?
Make cumulative argument about their attempts to breach agreement
What levels/standards will be used to trigger changes to management? Lack of criteria in DEIR

IMPACTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE LORP AS A WHOLE (Ch. 10)
Recreation
Socioeconomics
Public health and safety
Noxious weeds
Water Supply Impact
Energy
Growth inducing effects, including indirect impacts
Impacts due to funding shortfalls

ALTERNATIVES (Ch. 11)

CUMULATIVE IMPACTS (Ch. 12)
Related to pump station size; possible impacts from new wells, growth inducing impacts, financial analysis

CONSISTENCY WITH INYO COUNTY GENERAL PLAN (Ch. 13)

OTHER FEDERAL IMPACT CONSIDERATIONS (Ch. 14)



Contacts:  lorp@ovcweb.org Phone:

11/1/2002 A LORP DEIR/S is born 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Inyo County Water Department released the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement today (November 1, 2002) after a five-year gestation period.

WHERE TO FIND IT

Review a copy during business hours at your county public library (in Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, or Lone Pine), the Inyo County Water Department (163 May Street in Bishop), the Inyo County Planning Department (168 North Edwards in Independence), the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission (46 Tu Su Lane in Bishop), the United States Environmental Protection Agency Library (75 Hawthorne Street, 13th floor, in San Francisco), or the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (111 N. Hope Street, Room 518, in Los Angeles).

You can download an Adobe pdf version of the LORP DEIR (or see more about it) by typing http://lorpeir.com into your browser window. Obtain an electronic copy on compact disk (free) or a color copy ($25) from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (300 Mandich Street, Bishop, CA 93514, 872-1104). Request a black-and-white photocopy from the US Environmental Protection Agency (Gail Louis, 75 Hawthorne Street, WTR-3, San Francisco, CA 94105, 415-972-3467).

WHAT TO DO WITH IT

1. If you'd like to join other concerned individuals and groups in analyzing, processing, or publicizing the LORP DEIR, we need your help. Call the Owens Valley Committee at 760-876-1845, or e-mail us (lorp@ovcweb.org) with your name, address, preferred e-mail address, and phone number, and tell us that you'd like to help with the LORP.

2. Send or fax your own written comments regarding the LORP DEIR by January 14, 2003 to Clarence Martin, 300 Mandich Street, Bishop, CA 93514, fax 760-873-0266.

3. If you would like to receive e-mail about the LORP DEIR, or if you'd just prefer to receive our upcoming general comments regarding strong points and weaknesses in the LORP DEIR via the US postal service, call us (760-876-1845) or e-mail us (lorp@ovcweb.org) with your e-mail or postal address and tell us that you'd like to hear about the LORP DEIR.

4. Attend public meetings (see "Events") and write your elected officials (see "Take Action--Make Contact") to support our positions regarding the LORP DEIR and the long term water agreement between Inyo County and Los Angeles.

5. If you lack the time but still want to help, make a donation (see "Contact us")--it'll help immeasurably with our anticipated costs for photocopying, analyses, educational ads and mailing campaigns to inform Owens Valley communities and others throughout California about the LORP DEIR.

(To see more information about the LORP DEIR, click on "Issues" in the OVC menu bar and follow the links.)




Contacts:  Phone:

10/24/2002 Summary of Inyo/LA Standing Comm meeting 10.23.02 
INYO COUNTY/LOS ANGELES STANDING COMMITTEE MEETING SUMMARY
OCTOBER 23, 2002
TRI-COUNTY FAIR GROUNDS, BISHOP, CA

1.) Big Pine ditch system supply project-
The Long-term Water Agreement (LTWA) calls for 6 cfs of water for a Big Pine(BP) town ditch system. Water would come from a new well WEST of town (currently proposed for Bell Canyon area) and from BP Ck. In addition, BP’s town well would be replaced. Possible alternatives: a.) use excess water from the BP town replacement well (#415) to augment flows from Bell Cyn. well and BP Ck. b.) drill a well off Reynolds Rd. that will also “dewater” Knight Manor mobile home area . DWP rejects this due to cost gamble (~$250K), distance to ditch system, on/off risk, predicted low flow. c.) DWP suggests taking 500 AF from other E/M projects in the valley and give to the BP ditch project . This would require an amendment to the LTWA d.) exempt both the town replacement well (#415) and Bell Cyn. well. Concerns with the Bell Cyn. well are that its flow might be small and it could impact riparian vegetation west of BP. DWP suggests exemptions from on/off provisions of the LTWA . Inyo Supvs. say no to that. e.) Use a well EAST of town. DWP rejects this due to concerns of impacts on their wells in the area that are already off under the on/off provisions of the LTWA. f.) DWP suggests increasing annual pumping 500AF each year. g.) use a BP private well. h.) BPIIA could accept whatever water that they get from BP Ck. and Bell Cyn wells with or w/o exemptions .The Big Pine Irrigation and Improvement association (BPIIA) accepts this concept. i.) DWP offers $400K to BP for their choice of project (town hall, swimming pool etc). DWP is required under the LTWA to give BP $100K if the ditch system isn’t feasible.

Comments-
DWP(Gewe)-“We’ve gone beyond the LTWA by agreeing to a 2nd well (Bell Cyn.).”
BPIIA(Steele)-“The town well was a replacement well and not a ditch project well.[Bell Cyn well is the 1st well for the ditch system]”
DWP (Rubalcava)-“Exempt Bell Cyn. well. Test it before considering the 3rd well (Reynolds Rd well)”.
Inyo (James)-“That’s what we are proposing.”
DWP(Gewe)-“BP ditch system could be mitigation for any impacts from Bell Cyn. well.We’ve done this elsewhere”
Inyo(James)-“Inyo will consider partial exemption of Bell Cyn. well during dry years when BP Ck. flows are low.”
Inyo (Miller)- “Would DWP go ahead NOW with Bell Cyn. well?”
DWP(Gewe)-“If that ends it. No 3rd well.”
Inyo(Mendez) “Let’s evaluate it (Bell Cyn) to see if it could be exempted.”
BPIIA(Steele)-“BP is being held hostage to replacement water. BP has no completed projects. This year 27K AF of water will be pumped from around BP. We ask LA for 500 AF of replacement water with NO new well. Water will flow through and go to east side regreening project. W/o flow through the regreening project will require a new well that will cause problems.”
Inyo(Miller)- “We delayed the east side regreening project to wait for the BP ditch flow through water.”
Inyo(James)-“The 500 AF would require a change in the LTWA.”
DWP(Gewe)-“We will consider the 500 AF request.”
Inyo(Bear)-“What is the goal of this? Last meeting we said make it[the ditch system] work.[Why isn’t it?]”
Inyo(Mendez)- “The goal is to get water in the ditch. We could have been talking about this 4 years ago. No more delays.”
Inyo(Arcularius)-“Without the ditch outflow the east side regreening will require a new well.[problem]”
BPIIA(Steele)-“Since 1990 Klondike Lake has been reduced 500 AF. That water could be given for the BP ditch project.We don’t want money.”
Inyo(James)- “We only need replacement water for water that is lost in the ditch project, not for the water that flows through for the regreeneing.”
DWP(Rubalcava)-“Yes.”


2.) Laws Irrigation resumption-
Laws Ranch is Type E vegetation(irrigated) as defined in the LTWA. It has not been irrigated in nearly 10 years. The LTWA requires that it be irrigated. Propose to transfer(move) equivalent acres to nearby site within same well field where easier irrigation will be possible. Irrigation must begin by April 1, 2003 or Dispute Resolution will commence. Inyo Supvs. agreed to the change with 3 conditions: a.) LTWA must be amended (DWP believes this is not necessary to move Type E vegetation). b.) CEQA document must be prepared. c.) Mitigation plan must be drafted for abandoned acres.

Both parties say the change can be accomplished and irrigation will begin by April 1, 2003. Inyo says acres previously irrigated as of 1981-82 are being calculated. Inyo proposes an amendment to the LTWA that would allow moving Type E vegetation anywhere in the valley if it is within the same well field, is in the same lease and if CEQA documentation is done. Inyo says some leasees have moved Type E veg in the past and this current proposal will bring them into compliance.

3.) LORP DEIR-
Both parties agree that it will be out by the court ordered date of November 1, 2002.

Next meeting –sometime during the first week of December in Los Angeles.





Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760-876-5807

9/12/2002 Court orders agencies to release DEIR or show cause 
Judge Edward Denton of the Inyo Superior Court ordered the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Inyo County Water Department to produce a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Lower Owens River Project by November 1. If not, he said, he will issue an Order to Show Cause.

Judge Denton acknowledged that the LORP is a complex undertaking but added that continued delays "in conjunction with history" implied that the project needed some outside party to help move it along. "This court's got to add some muscle to the situation," he said.

The DEIR was originally due in June 2000, but parties to the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding have granted several extensions, including September 2000 and October 2001. Frustrated by long delays, the Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club filed suit against LADWP in late December 2001, requesting that the court impose a deadline for the DEIR. After LADWP failed to meet a court-stipulated deadline of August 31, 2002 and announced that the agencies involved might be able to produce the DEIR by mid-November 2002, the OVC and the Sierra Club asked the court in a separate filing to order LADWP to produce the DEIR by September 30 or be subject to groundwater pumping sanctions.

Contacts:  Phone:

9/10/2002 SWRCB considers Pine Creek hydroelectric water rights permit 
The deadline for filing protests concerning a water right permit for diversion of water from Morgan and Pine creeks is 4 p.m. today, September 10, 2002.

Joseph M. Keating has applied to the State Water Resources Control Board for a permit to appropriate water from the creeks. Obtaining such a permit would be a necessary step in building a hydroelectric power plant in Pine Creek Canyon. Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a license to the project (Tungstar Project # 7267), previous incarnations of Mr. Keating's hydroelectric proposal were denied approval from the Forest Service for a number of reasons, including uncertain water rights and the operator's reluctance to provide a performance bond (see http://216.239.51.100/search?q=cache:m8Tzjp8CAL0C:www.r5.fs.fed.us/appeals/1998/fy98_0108.htm+&hl=en&ie=UTF-8).

The hydroelectric project would divert water from Morgan Creek at a rate of 40 cubic feet per second, at a maximum total annual diversion of 28,000 acre feet from Morgan Creek, and return the water to Pine Creek or to Gable Creek, a tributary of Pine Creek.

A full description of Mr. Keating's project and instructions for filing a protest or a request to extend the deadline for protests can be found at [ http://www.waterrights.ca.gov/application/AppNot/WEEK2/31265NOT.pdf ]. Further information about the history of the proposed project can be found at [http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/Fed-Ct/Circuit/dc/opinions/95-1232a.html].
Contacts:  Phone:

9/6/2002 LADWP and Inyo County file Sept. 6 report to Inyo Superior Court on failure to complete LORP DEIR 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the County of Inyo submitted a report today to the Inyo County Superior Court explaining why they did not complete the Lower Owens River Project Draft EIR/EIS by the court ordered deadline of Aug. 31. The DEIR was originally due in June 2000, as required in the MOU with OVC, the Sierra Club and other parties. They now say they need until Nov. 18, 2002 to complete the document, this statement just three weeks after indicating to the court it could be completed by Sept. 30.


PAUL N. BRUCE, (081619) ROCKARD J. DELGADILLO
Inyo County Counsel City Attorney
224 North Edwards Street Richard M. Helgeson
P.O. Box M Senior Assistant City Attorney for
Independence, California 93526 Water and Power
(760) 878-0229 ARTHUR B. WALSH (89732)
(760) 878-2241 (fax) Assistant City Attorney
111 North Hope Street, Suite 340
GREGORY L. JAMES P.0. Box 51111
Special Legal Counsel (055760) Los Angeles, California 90051-0100
163 May Street (213) 367-4505
Bishop, California 93514
(760) 872-1168
(760) 873-5695 (fax)

Attorneys for Defendant Attorneys for Defendant City of Los
County of Inyo Angeles by and through its Department
of Water and Power


IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

FOR THE COUNTY OF INYO



SIERRA CLUB, and OWENS ) Case No.: S1CVCV01-29768
VALLEY COMMITTEE )
) STATUS REPORT ON PREPARATION
Plaintiffs ) OF DRAFT EIR/EIS
)
)
v. )
)
CITY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS )
ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF )
WATER AND POWER; and )
COUNTY OF INYO )
)
Defendants )
)
)
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF )
FISH AND GAME; and CALIFORNIA )
STATE LANDS COMMISSION )
)
Real Parties in Interest. )
On May 29, 2002, the parties to this litigation, and the California Department of Fish and
Game and the California State Lands Commission (as Real Parties in Interest) filed a
stipulation in the above entitled case (“Stipulation”). Section 3.a of the Stipulation provides in
pertinent part as follows:
2. In the event that the Draft EIR/EIS is not completed and/or released for public review by August 31, 2002, by September 6, 2002, Defendants shall file with the Court and serve upon the Plaintiffs, and the Real Parties in Interest, a statement of the reasons why the Draft EIR/EIS was not completed and released for public review by August 31, 2002. The statement shall also provide the date that the EIR/EIS will be completed and released for public review. The purpose of the statement is to assist the parties and the court in determining what course of conduct to follow, and neither the statement, nor any portion of it shall be admissible as evidence in any proceeding.
The Draft EIR/EIS was not completed and released for public review by August 31, 2002. Therefore, Defendants County of Inyo and the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“LADWP”) jointly submit this statement as required by Section 3.a of the Stipulation.
Under California law, LADWP is the lead agency, and the County of Inyo is a responsible agency. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is the federal lead agency. Ecosystem Sciences Incorporated (“ESI”), a contractor for Defendant LADWP, is assisting in the preparation of the Draft EIR/EIS. ESI was selected by the MOU parties to undertake certain work under the direction of Defendants in regard to the LORP. URS is the consultant who is preparing the Draft EIR/EIS. As agreed by the Defendants, URS is performing such work under a contract with Defendant County of Inyo.




1. State the reasons why the Draft EIR/EIS was not completed and released for public review by August 31, 2002.
Response:
On July 1, 2002, July 31, 2002, and August 15, 2002, Defendants jointly submitted to the Court, the Plaintiffs, and the Real Parties in Interest, status reports on the preparation of the EIR/EIS. Each of these reports included the following: (1) whether all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, has been completed; (2) a description of any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, that has not been completed; (3) an explanation of why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed; (4) a statement of whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002; (5) a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS and (6) a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
The reports submitted by the Defendants fully set forth the reasons why the draft EIR/EIS was not completed and released for public review by August 31, 2002. In the August 15, 2002 status report, Defendants reported that the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS had been provided by URS on August 7, 2002. Defendants also reported that it was anticipated that consensus on the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS would be reached by August 26, 2002.
While significant progress has been made, and Defendants and the EPA have met almost daily since the release of the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS, consensus has not been reached on all of the chapters that comprise the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS. Further, although Defendants and the EPA plan on working daily on the Administrative Draft document, and on meeting frequently until consensus is reached on the Administrative Draft, it is not expected that consensus will be reached on the entire Administrative Draft EIR/EIS until at least October 11, 2002.


2. State the date that the Draft EIR/EIS will be released for public review.
Response:
Once consensus has been reached on the Administrative Draft, URS will prepare a “screen-check” draft for review by the Defendants and the EPA. The review of the screen-check draft will consist of corrections of typographic errors, format corrections and other non-substantive revisions. Following the review of the screen-check draft, URS will print the Draft EIR/EIS and it will be released for public review. It is expected that these activities will require approximately one month after consensus is reached on the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS. Therefore, it is expected that the Draft EIR/EIS will not be released to the public before November 18, 2002.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of Defendants County of Inyo, City of Los Angeles, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power this sixth day of September 2002.

_________________________________
Paul N. Bruce, County Counsel
Gregory L. James, Special Legal Counsel
Attorneys for Defendant County of Inyo












DECLARATION OF SERVICE

CASE NAME: Sierra Club & Owens Valley Committee v. City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and County of Inyo

CASE NUMBER: Inyo County Superior Court Case No. S1CVCV01-29768

I am employed in the County of Inyo, over the age of 18 years and not a party to the within entitled action. My business address is 224 North Edwards Street, P.O. Box M, Independence, California 93526

On September 6, I served the foregoing document(s) described as:

Status on Preparation of Draft EIR/EIS

on all parties in said action, by causing a true copy thereof to be transmitted in a sealed envelope, addressed as shown below,

By Fax and U.S. Mail:

Donald B. Mooney, Esq.
Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney
129 C Street, Suite 2
Davis, CA 95616
Fax (530) 758-7169

Laurens H. Silver, Esq.
California Environmental Law Project
302 Sycamore Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Fax (415) 383-7995

Arthur B. Walsh, Esq.
Assistant City Attorney
City of Los Angeles
Post office Box 51111
Los Angeles, Ca 90051-0100
Fax (213) 367-4588

Gordon B. Burns
Deputy Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
1300 I Street, Suite 1101
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Fax (916) 322-5609

Attorney for Owens Valley Committee




Attorney for Sierra Club





Attorney for City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power




Attorney for Real Parties in Interest California State Lands Commission and California Department of Fish & Game

AND

[xx ] (By Mail) I personally deposited said envelope(s) with the United States Postal Service at Bishop, California with first class postage thereon fully prepaid.

[ ] (By Mail) I deposited such envelope(s) in the mail at Bishop, California. I am readily familiar with the County's practice whereby the mail, after being placed in a designated area, is given the appropriate first class postage and is deposited with the U.S. Postal Service on that same day.

[ ] (By Express Mail/Overnight Delivery) I caused such envelope to be delivered by hand to the office of the addressee via overnight delivery pursuant to C.C.P. § 1013(c), with delivery fees fully prepaid.

[xx ] (By Facsimile) By faxing a true copy to party(ies) listed.

[ ] (By Personal Service) I caused such envelope(s) to be delivered personally to the office(s) of addressee(s).

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.



Dated: September 6, 2002 _________________________________
Paula J. Weller

Contacts:  Mark Bagley markbagley@qnet.com Phone: 760-873-5326

9/6/2002 OVC and Sierra Club file request for relief statement after LADWP fails to release LORP DEIR 

OVC and Sierra Club filed a request for relief with the Inyo County Superior Court after failure by LADWP and Inyo County to release the Lower Owens River Project Draft EIR by the court stipulated deadline of Aug. 31, 2002. Below is the statement which calls for the Court to order that the LORP DEIR be completed by Sept 30, 2002 and to impose penalties on LADWP if they fail to meet that deadline. The document is now more than two years late.


LAURENS H. SILVER (SBN 55339)
CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL LAW PROJECT
302 Sycamore Avenue
Mill Valley, California 94941
Telephone: (415) 383-5688
Facsimile: (415) 383-7995

Attorney for SIERRA CLUB


DONALD B. MOONEY (SBN153721)
LAW OFFICES OF DONALD B. MOONEY
129 C Street, Suite 2
Davis, California 95616
Telephone: (530) 758-2377
Facsimile: (530) 758-7169

Attorney for OWENS VALLEY COMMITTEE




IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

FOR THE COUNTY OF INYO



SIERRA CLUB, and OWENS ) Case No.: S1CVCV01-29768
VALLEY COMMITTEE )
) PLAINTIFFS’ STATEMENT
Plaintiffs ) REQUESTING RELIEF FOR
) DEFENDANTS’ FAIILURE TO
) COMPLETE AND RELEASE
v. ) THE DRAFT ENVIRONMETNAL
) IMPACT STATEMENT
CITY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS )
ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF )
WATER AND POWER; and )
COUNTY OF INYO )
)
Defendants ) Date: September 12, 2002
)
)
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF )
FISH AND GAME; and CALIFORNIA )
STATE LANDS COMMISSION )
)
Real Parties in Interest. )

I. INTRODUCTION

Pursuant to the terms of the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between the City of Los Angeles, the County of Inyo, the Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, the Department of Fish and Game, and the California State Lands Commission, the City and County have had over five years to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Report (“Draft EIR”) for the Lower Owens River Project (“LORP”). The purpose of the Draft EIR and the LORP is to implement a project that will mitigate the significant environmental impacts associated with the City’s extraction and export of groundwater from the Owens Valley that began in the early 1970s. Thus, for over 30 years, the City has received the benefits of its groundwater export project without having to implement measures to mitigate the project ‘s significant environmental effects. The City’s failure to timely complete and release the Draft EIR pursuant to the MOU, despite the two separate agreements granting an extension of time, and the failure to meet the August 31, 2002, date set forth in the Stipulation and Order in this action, are continuing examples of the City’s three-prong strategy of delay, delay and more delay.
II. DISCUSSION
A. The City of Los Angeles’ Groundwater Pumping and Export Program
In 1972, the County sued Los Angeles under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), Public Resources Code, section 21000 et seq. to require the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“LADWP”) to prepare an EIR on its groundwater pumping to supply LADWP’s second aqueduct from the Owens Valley. The court directed LADWP to prepare an EIR. (County of Inyo v. Yorty (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 795, 816.) Although LADWP issued EIRs in 1976 and 1979, the Third District Court of Appeals found both to be legally inadequate. (County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 185, 205; County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1981)124 Cal.App.3d 1, 14-15.)
In October 1991, the County and LADWP approved the Inyo County/Los Angeles Long-Term Water Agreement (“Inyo-Los Angeles Agreement”) which is intended to provide environmental protection to the Owens Valley from the effects of Los Angeles’ groundwater pumping and water exports and to identify measures required to mitigate past and future damage to the environment of Inyo County as a result of the groundwater pumping. The Agreement provided a LORP project description and committed LADWP and the County to implement the LORP.
In connection with LADWP’s augmented groundwater pumping project and the Agreement, LADWP and the County completed a third EIR in October 1991. This Final EIR purported to address all water management practices and facilities associated with LADWP’s second aqueduct, and projects and water management practices identified in the Agreement.
Soon after its completion, the County and LADWP submitted the Final EIR and the Agreement to the Third District Court of Appeal with a joint request to discharge the writ of mandate. Shortly thereafter, the Sierra Club, the OVC, DFG, and the State Lands Commission, who were participating in the litigation between the County and Los Angeles as amici, raised concerns about the legal adequacy of the third EIR. In 1994, the Court of Appeals denied the County and City’s request to discharge the writ of mandate and ordered the County and LADWP to respond to the issues raised by the amici concerning the legal adequacy of the Final EIR.
B. The Memorandum of Understanding Requires the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report for Implementation of the LORP Mitigation Measures

After several years of negotiations, on January 15, 1997, the parties executed the MOU that is now the subject of this litigation. A copy of the MOU is attached as Exhibit A to the Complaint. The Third District Court of Appeals subsequently approved the MOU. The MOU effectively ended twenty-five years of litigation and allowed the full provisions of the Agreement and the mitigation projects contemplated in the Final EIR and MOU to be implemented.
The MOU provides resolution of the concerns about the adequacy of the EIR, particularly concerns related to the adequacy of mitigation described in the EIR for impacts resulting from pumping and diversion activities in the Owens Valley from 1970 to 1990. The MOU required the City to develop, plan and carry out a number of measures to mitigate the adverse effects of the City’s project. The MOU includes provisions expanding the LORP, originally set forth in the Inyo-Los Angeles Agreement and the 1991 EIR. The1991 EIR identified the LORP as compensatory mitigation for significant adverse environmental impacts related to Los Angeles’ groundwater pumping from 1970 to 1990 that were difficult to quantify. The MOU specifies the goals of the LORP, the timeframe for development and implementation, and specific actions. It also provides certain minimum requirements for the LORP related to flows, locations of facilities, and habitats and species to be addressed.
Finally, the MOU requires LADWP, as the lead agency, and the County, as a responsible agency, to prepare an EIR for the LORP and issue a draft EIR for public review by June 13, 2000, and a Final EIR be completed and presented for certification as soon as possible following the release of the draft EIR. The MOU requires LADWP to commence the baseflow of 40 cubic feet per second (“cfs”) in the river channel by June 13, 2003. The MOU provides for the extension of the deadlines if all the parties to the MOU consent to the extension or due to circumstances beyond the control of LADWP and/or the County.
C. The Lower Owens River Project Provides for Mitigation of Significant Environmental Impacts Resulting From Los Angeles’s Groundwater Pumping Program

As compensatory mitigation for adverse environmental impacts attributable to the City’s augmented ground water pumping, the Lower Owens River Project includes the watering of a 60-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River channel below the aqueduct intake, the enhancement of environmental features along and near the river, and a pumpback facility near the Owens River Delta. The MOU provides for the development and implementation of an ecosystem management plan for the LORP that incorporates multiple resource values and provides for management based upon holistic management principles with certain minimum flows established in the MOU.
A major component of the LOPR is a pumpback station. The Inyo-Los Angeles Agreement specifies the pumpback station will have a capacity up to 50 cfs.
Rewatering the Lower Owens River through the LORP will provide significant riparian and fresh water habitats as mitigation for the substantial and adverse environmental impacts of LADWP’s ground water pumping which began in 1970. Assuring water for the Owens River Delta through the LORP will provide for the perpetuation and enhancement of the most significant marsh habitat remaining at Owens Lake.
The goal of the LORP is the establishment of a healthy and functioning Lower Owens River riverine-riparian ecosystem, and the establishment of healthy functioning ecosystems in the other physical features of the LORP.
There are four critical physical features of the LORP set forth in the MOU:
a. A continuous flow will be established and maintained in the river channel from at or near the intake structure that diverts the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, to the pumpback system located near the river delta. A base flow of approximately 40 cfs from at or near the intake to the pumpback system to be maintained year round, as well as seasonal habitat flows of approximately 200 cfs during years of above-average flows.
b. The establishment of the Owens River Delta Habitat Area, which is to enhance and maintain existing habitat consisting of riparian areas and ponds suitable for shorebirds, waterfowl, and other animals and to establish and maintain new habitat consisting of riparian areas and ponds suitable for shorebirds, waterfowl, and other wildlife and fishery resources within the Habitat Area.
c. The maintenance and/or establishment of certain off-river lakes and ponds to sustain diverse habitat for fisheries, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife and fishery resources.
d. Creation and maintenance of a 1500 acre Blackrock Waterfowl Habitat Area.

D. The City and County Have Consistently Failed to Comply with the MOU’s Requirement for the Completion and Release of a Draft EIR

On January 14, 2000, LADWP released a Notice of Preparation of a Draft EIR for the Lower Owens River Project. On March 27, 2000, at LADWP’s request, the MOU parties agreed to extend the deadline for completing the draft EIR for the project from June 13, 2000, to September 30, 2000. The extension provided for the draft EIR to be released on September 30, 2000. LADWP and the County, however, did not complete the LORP Draft EIR by September 30, 2000, as required in the agreed upon time extension. LADWP did not seek an extension of the September 30, 2000, deadline prior to September 30, 2000. Nor did LADWP seek an extension any time prior to March 2001.
After three meetings of the MOU parties in March 2001, the City agreed to produce a draft EIR by October 26, 2001. The extension agreement required that an administrative draft of the EIR be prepared by July 3, 2001, with comments by LADWP and the County to be submitted to the EIR consultant by September 4, 2001. By email to the MOU parties on July 9, 2001, the Inyo County Water Department confirmed that the Water Department and LADWP had on that date received from John Gray of URS Corporation the Administrative Draft EIS/EIR for the LORP. By email on August 30, 2001, John Gray, Manager of Environmental Services for URS Corporation (the EIR consultant), informed the MOU parties that he had “received comments on the administrative draft EIR/EIS from LADWP, Inyo County, and EPA, which were to be received on or before September 4, 2001 per the agreement with the MOU parties.” Despite the completion of the Administrative Draft EIS/EIR, on October 4, 2001, John Gray informed, LADWP, the County, and EPA that additional time would be needed for release to the public of a Draft EIR. In a memorandum dated November 6, 2001, from Gene Coufal of LADWP to the MOU signatories, LADWP informed the MOU parties that February 18, 2002, would be the “most realistic date” for release of the LORP draft EIR.
In December 2001, Plaintiffs filed this action to compel completion and release of the Draft EIR for the LORP. Now nine months after the initiation of the litigation, 2 years past the original MOU deadline, and over five years from the effective date of the MOU, LADWP and the County have failed to complete and release the Draft EIR.
E. Los Angeles and the County Have Failed to Comply with the Stipulation and Order Requiring the Completion and Release of the Draft EIR by August 30, 2002.

By Stipulation and Order filed on May 30, 2002, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the County of Inyo were directed to complete and release to the public by August 31, 2002, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“Draft EIR”) for the Lower Owens River Project. Exhibit A to the Stipulation and Order contained a work schedule that identified the tasks and completion dates for each of the respective tasks so that the Draft EIR would be completed and released to the public by August 31, 2002.
As part of the Stipulation and Order, Los Angeles and the County were directed to submit status reports to the Court, either jointly or separately, on July 1, 2002, July 31, 2002 and August 15, 2002. The Stipulation and Order required that the Status Reports include information on whether the work has proceeded according to the work schedule; a description of any work that had not been completed according to the work schedule; an explanation of why any work required by the schedule to have been completed, has not been completed; a statement of whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the Draft EIS by August 31, 2002; and a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay completion and release of the Draft EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Pursuant to the Stipulation and Order, Los Angeles and the County, timely submitted Status Reports on July 1, 2002, July 31, 2002, and August 31, 2002. The July 1, 2002, Status Report revealed that a number of the tasks identified in the work schedule had not be completed and that the Draft EIR would be delayed four weeks beyond the August 31, 2002, deadline. (Draft EIR/EIS Status Report, July 1, 2002, at p. 6.) The Defendants’ July 31, 2002, Status Report indicated that work still had not been completed pursuant to the work schedule attached to the Stipulation and Order. (Draft EIR/EIS Status Report, July 31, 2002, at pp. 3-4.) The Defendants, however, stated that “there are no foreseeable problems that may delay the completion of the EIR/EIS beyond September 30, 2002.” (Id. at p. 4.) This statement was repeated in the Defendants’ August 15, 2002, Status Report with the caveat that there is a potential issues associated with the project description that may delay completion and release of the document beyond September 30, 2002. (Draft EIR/EIS Status Report, August 15, 2002, at p. 4.)
III. PLAINTIFFS REQUEST THAT THE COURT DIRECT COMPLIANCE WITH THE MOU AND IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES

A. The Court Should Order that the Draft EIR be Completed and Released by September 30, 2002.

Based upon Defendants’ three status reports indicating that a Draft EIR would be completed and released by September 30, 2002, Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court issue an order directing Defendants to complete and release for public review the Draft EIR no later than September 30, 2002.

B. The Court Should Enjoin Los Angeles From Exporting Groundwater if the Draft EIR is not Completed and Released

The Plaintiffs further request that if the Draft EIR is not released by September 30, 2002, that the Court immediately issue an Order to Show Cause to the City and County, directing the City and County to show cause why they have not complied with the Court’s Order relating to preparation of the Draft EIR by September 30, 2002, and ordering the City to show cause why its project of groundwater pumping and export of groundwater initiated in 1970, but for which no adequate mitigation has been implemented, ought not to be enjoined in part, or in whole, or otherwise curtailed.
As Los Angeles has been allowed to extract and export groundwater for over thirty years without having to mitigate for the environmental impacts, Plaintiffs believe it is necessary and appropriate for the Court to consider enjoining Los Angeles from extracting and exporting groundwater from the Owens Valley if Los Angeles cannot show good cause. Such injunction would not apply to the extraction of groundwater for uses within the Owens Valley.
In the event that a Draft EIR is not produced by September 30, 2002, Plaintiffs request that the County, in its return to the Order to Show Cause, provide the Court with a plan for reducing, by order of this Court, the City’s augmented groundwater pumping project. Such plan will indicate by what amount groundwater pumping needs to be reduced, specify the particular pumps that will be affected, and indicate the expected mitigation of past environmental impacts anticipated, or indicate how a specific resource will be enhanced. The County’s plan, in lieu of reduced groundwater pumping, may include, ordering the City to release flows into the Lower Owens River, consistent with the flow regimes mandated by the MOU, until such time as the Final EIR is completed.
Plaintiffs believe that the City and County may not have reached an agreement on the Project Description, which is an essential element of a draft and final EIR. (CEQA Guidelines, § 15124; County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 71 Cal.App.3d at p. 199.) In their respective responses to the Order to Show Cause, the Court should direct the Defendants to state their respective positions on the project description. If agreement is not reached on the project description by the time Defendants respond to the Order to Show Cause, this Court should proceed, as a matter of law, to determine the project description, consistent with CEQA Guidelines, section 15124.
Upon completion and release of the Draft EIR, Los Angeles would be allowed to resume its groundwater extraction.

Dated: September 5, 2002.
Respectfully submitted,



By:
LAURENS H. SILVER
Attorney for Plaintiff Sierra Club



By:
DONALD B. MOONEY
Attorney for Plaintiff
Owens Valley Committee

PROOF OF SERVICE

I am employed in the County of Yolo; my business address is 129 C Street, Suite 2, Davis, California; I am over the age of 18 years and not a party to the foregoing action. On September 5, 2002, I served a true and correct copy of

PLAINTIFFS’ STATEMENT REQUESTING RELIEF FOR
DEFENDANTS’ FAILURE TO COMPLETE AND RELEASE
THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

X (by mail) on all parties in said action listed below, in accordance with Code of Civil Procedure §1013a(3), by placing a true copy thereof enclosed in a sealed envelope in a United States mailbox in the City of Davis, California.

(by facsimile transmission) to the person at the address and phone number set forth below:

(by overnight delivery service) via Federal Express to the person at the address set forth below:

Paul Bruce
County of Inyo
224 North Edwards Street
P.O. Box M
Independence, CA 93526
Representing Defendant
County of Inyo
Gregory L. James
Inyo County Water Department
163 May Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Representing Defendant
County of Inyo
Arthur Walsh
City of Los Angeles
111 North Hope Street, Suite 340
P.O. Box 51111
Los Angeles, CA 90051-0100
Representing Defendants City of
Los Angeles and Los Angeles
Department of Water & Power

Gordon B. Burns
Deputy Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
1300 I Street, Suite 1101
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550 Representing Real Parties in Interest
California State Lands Commission
and California Department of Fish
& Game


I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on
September 5, 2002, at Davis, California.



Donald B. Mooney

Contacts:  Mark Bagley markbagley@qnet.com Phone: 760-873-5326

8/30/2002 LADWP and Inyo County file Aug. 15 status report on LORP DEIR/EIS progress 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the County of Inyo submitted a third report today to the Inyo County Superior Court detailing progress (or any lack thereof) in completing the Lower Owens River Project Draft EIR/EIS, which was originally due in June 2000. This is the last of three status reports required by stipulation of the court. An explanation of the stipulation and a copy of the report appear below.

PAUL N. BRUCE, (081619) ROCKARD J. DELGADILLO
Inyo County Counsel City Attorney
224 North Edwards Street PHILIP SHINER
P.O. Box M Chief Assistant City Attorney for
Independence, California 93526 Water and Power
(760) 878-0229 ARTHUR B. WALSH (89732)
(760) 878-2241 (fax) Assistant City Attorney
111 North Hope Street, Suite 340
GREGORY L. JAMES P.0. Box 51111
Special Legal Counsel (055760) Los Angeles, California 90051-0100
163 May Street (213) 367-4505
Bishop, California 93514
(760) 872-1168
(760) 873-5695 (fax)

Attorneys for Defendant Attorneys for Defendant City of Los
County of Inyo Angeles by and through its Department
of Water and Power


IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

FOR THE COUNTY OF INYO



SIERRA CLUB, and OWENS ) Case No.: S1CVCV01-29768
VALLEY COMMITTEE )
) STATUS REPORT ON PREPARATION
Plaintiffs ) OF DRAFT EIR/EIS
)
)
v. )
)
CITY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS )
ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF )
WATER AND POWER; and )
COUNTY OF INYO )
)
Defendants )
)
)
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF )
FISH AND GAME; and CALIFORNIA )
STATE LANDS COMMISSION )
)
Real Parties in Interest. )
On May 29, 2002, the parties to this litigation, and the California Department of Fish and
Game and the California State Lands Commission (as Real Parties in Interest) filed a
stipulation in the above entitled case (“Stipulation”). Section 2 of the Stipulation provides as
follows:
2. Defendants will prepare the Draft EIR/EIS in accordance with the schedule attached hereto as Exhibit "A." (Hereinafter "Schedule.") On July 1, 2002, July 31, 2002, and August 15, 2002, Defendants, either jointly or separately, will submit to the Court, the Plaintiffs, and the Real Parties in Interest, a status report on the preparation of the EIR/EIS. The status report shall include: (1) whether all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, has been completed; (2) a description of any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, that has not been completed; (3) an explanation of why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed; (4) a statement of whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002; (5) a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS and (6) a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
This document is the August 15, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS that is required by Section 2 of the Stipulation. As provided in Section 2 of the Stipulation, this status report is jointly submitted by Defendants County of Inyo and the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“LADWP”).
Under California law, LADWP is the lead agency, and the County of Inyo is a responsible agency. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is the federal lead agency. Ecosystem Sciences Incorporated (“ESI”), a contractor for Defendant LADWP, is assisting in the preparation of the Draft EIR/EIS. ESI was selected by the MOU parties to undertake certain work under the direction of Defendants in regard to the LORP. URS is the consultant who is preparing the Draft EIR/EIS. As agreed by the Defendants, URS is performing such work under a contract with Defendant County of Inyo. Hereinafter, these entities and organizations are sometimes collectively referred to as “those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS.”
1. Has all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, been completed?
Response: No.
2. Describe any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report that has not been completed.
Response: The Schedule requires the Draft LORP Plan to be completed during the week of June 10, 2002. The Draft Plan was submitted to LADWP, the County and the EPA by ESI on July 24, 2002. The Schedule requires URS to issue an Administrative Draft EIR/EIS during the week of June 24, 2002. The Administrative Draft EIR/EIS was submitted on August 7, 2002. The delays in these submittals are explained in the July 1, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS that was submitted to the Court by the Defendants. The Schedule requires the Lead Agencies to reach consensus on the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS by the week of July 22, 2002. Consensus was not reached as required by the Schedule. It is anticipated that consensus on the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS will be reached by August 26, 2002.
3. Explain why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed.
Response:
The reasons why the work required by the Schedule has not been timely completed are fully explained in the July 1, 2002 status report. At that time, Defendants reported that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS to the public might be delayed four weeks beyond the date required by the Schedule. Since the submittal of that report, there have been no additional delays that would further extend the release of the Draft EIR/EIS to the public beyond four weeks after August 31, 2002.

4. State whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Response: Although the Defendants, ESI, URS and the EPA have attempted to overcome the past delays in achieving the Schedule, it is expected that the Draft EIR/EIS will not be released to the public before September 30, 2002.
5. Provide a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS.
Response: Since the submission of the July 1, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS, the EPA has timely completed all required work on the Draft EIR/EIS.
6. Provide a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Response: At present, there are no foreseeable problems that may delay the completion of the EIR/EIS beyond September 30, 2002; however, there is a potential that if issues concerning the project description are not promptly resolved, the release of the Draft EIR/EIS may be delayed beyond September 30, 2002.

Respectively submitted on behalf of Defendants County of Inyo, City of Los Angeles, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power this fifteen day of August 2002.

_________________________________
Paul N. Bruce, County Counsel
Gregory L. James, Special Legal Counsel
Attorneys for Defendant County of Inyo






DECLARATION OF SERVICE

CASE NAME: Sierra Club & Owens Valley Committee v. City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and County of Inyo

CASE NUMBER: Inyo County Superior Court Case No. S1CVCV01-29768

I am employed in the County of Inyo, over the age of 18 years and not a party to the within entitled action. My business address is 224 North Edwards Street, P.O. Box M, Independence, California 93526

On August 15, 2002, I served the foregoing document(s) described as:

Status Report on Preparation of Draft EIR/EIS

on all parties in said action, by causing a true copy thereof to be transmitted in a sealed envelope, addressed as shown below,

By Fax and U.S. Mail:

Donald B. Mooney, Esq.
Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney
129 C Street, Suite 2
Davis, CA 95616
Fax (530) 758-7169

Laurens H. Silver, Esq.
California Environmental Law Project
302 Sycamore Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Fax (415) 383-7995

Arthur B. Walsh, Esq.
Assistant City Attorney
City of Los Angeles
Post Office Box 51111
Los Angeles, Ca 90051-0100
Fax (213) 367-4588

Gordon B. Burns
Deputy Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
1300 I Street, Suite 1101
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Fax (916) 322-5609

Attorney for Owens Valley Committee




Attorney for Sierra Club





Attorney for City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power




Attorney for Real Parties in Interest California State Lands Commission and California Department of Fish & Game

AND

[xx ] (By Mail) I personally deposited said envelope(s) with the United States Postal Service at Bishop, California with first class postage thereon fully prepaid.

[ ] (By Mail) I deposited such envelope(s) in the mail at Bishop, California. I am readily familiar with the County's practice whereby the mail, after being placed in a designated area, is given the appropriate first class postage and is deposited with the U.S. Postal Service on that same day.

[ ] (By Express Mail/Overnight Delivery) I caused such envelope to be delivered by hand to the office of the addressee via overnight delivery pursuant to C.C.P. § 1013(c), with delivery fees fully prepaid.

[xx ] (By Facsimile) By faxing a true copy to party(ies) listed.

[ ] (By Personal Service) I caused such envelope(s) to be delivered personally to the office(s) of addressee(s).

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.



Dated: August 15, 2002 _________________________________
Paula J. Weller



Contacts:  Mark Bagley markbagley@qnet.com Phone: 760-873-5326

8/1/2002 LADWP and Inyo County file July 31 status report on EIR/EIS 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the County of Inyo submitted a second report today to the Inyo County Superior Court detailing progress (or any lack thereof) in completing the Lower Owens River Project Draft EIR/EIS, which was originally due in June 2000. Three status reports are required by stipulation of the court. An explanation of the stipulation and a copy of the report appear below.


ROCKARD J. DELGADILLO
City Attorney
PHILIP SHINER
Chief Assistant City Attorney for Water and Power
ARTHUR B. WALSH (89732)
Assistant City Attorney
111 North Hope Street, Suite 340
P.0. Box 51111
Los Angeles, California 90051-0100
(213) 367-4505
Attorneys for Defendant City of Los Angeles by and through its Department of Water and Power


PAUL N. BRUCE, (081619)
Inyo County Counsel
224 North Edwards Street
P.O. Box M
Independence, California 93526
(760) 878-0229
(760) 878-2241 (fax)

GREGORY L. JAMES
Special Legal Counsel (055760)
163 May Street
Bishop, California 93514
(760) 872-1168
(760) 873-5695 (fax)

Attorneys for Defendant
County of Inyo


IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

FOR THE COUNTY OF INYO



SIERRA CLUB, and OWENS ) Case No.: S1CVCV01-29768
VALLEY COMMITTEE )
) STATUS REPORT ON PREPARATION
Plaintiffs ) OF DRAFT EIR/EIS
)
)
v. )
)
CITY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS )
ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF )
WATER AND POWER; and )
COUNTY OF INYO )
)
Defendants )
)
)
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF )
FISH AND GAME; and CALIFORNIA )
STATE LANDS COMMISSION )
)
Real Parties in Interest. )
On May 29, 2002, the parties to this litigation, and the California Department of Fish and
Game and the California State Lands Commission (as Real Parties in Interest) filed a
stipulation in the above entitled case ("Stipulation"). Section 2 of the Stipulation provides as
follows:
2. Defendants will prepare the Draft EIR/EIS in accordance with the schedule attached hereto as Exhibit "A." (Hereinafter "Schedule.") On July 1, 2002, July 31, 2002, and August 15, 2002, Defendants, either jointly or separately, will submit to the Court, the Plaintiffs, and the Real Parties in Interest, a status report on the preparation of the EIR/EIS. The status report shall include: (1) whether all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, has been completed; (2) a description of any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, that has not been completed; (3) an explanation of why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed; (4) a statement of whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002; (5) a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS and (6) a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
This document is the July 31, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS that is required by Section 2 of the Stipulation. As provided in Section 2 of the Stipulation, this status report is jointly submitted by Defendants County of Inyo and the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ("LADWP").
Under California law, LADWP is the lead agency, and the County of Inyo is a responsible agency. The Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") is the federal lead agency. Ecosystem Sciences Incorporated ("ESI"), a contractor for Defendant LADWP, is assisting in the preparation of the Draft EIR/EIS. ESI was selected by the MOU parties to undertake certain work under the direction of Defendants in regard to the LORP. URS is the consultant who is preparing the Draft EIR/EIS. As agreed by the Defendants, URS is performing such work under a contract with Defendant County of Inyo. Hereinafter, these entities and organizations are sometimes collectively referred to as "those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS."
1. Has all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, been completed?
Response: No.
2. Describe any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report that has not been completed.
Response: The Schedule requires the Draft LORP Plan to be completed during the week of June 10, 2002. The Draft Plan was not submitted to LADWP, the County and the EPA by ESI until July 24, 2002 for the reasons explained in the July 1, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS that was submitted to the Court by the Defendants. The Schedule requires URS to issue an Administrative Draft EIR/EIS during the week of June 24, 2002. The Administrative Draft EIR/EIS was not issued as required by the Schedule. It is anticipated that URS will issue the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS by August 12, 2002. The Schedule requires the Lead Agencies to reach consensus on the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS by the week of July 22, 2002. Consensus was not reached as required by the Schedule. It is anticipated that consensus on the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS will be reached by August 26, 2002.
3. Explain why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed.
Response:
The reasons why the work required by the Schedule has not been timely completed are fully explained in the July 1, 2002 status report. At that time, Defendants reported that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS to the public might be delayed four weeks beyond the date required by the Schedule. Since the submittal of that report, there have been no additional delays that would further extend the release of the Draft EIR/EIS to the public beyond four weeks after August 31, 2002.

4. State whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Response: Although the Defendants, ESI, URS and the EPA have attempted to overcome the past delays in achieving the Schedule, it is expected that the Draft EIR/EIS will not be released to the public before September 30, 2002.
5. Provide a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS.
Response: Since the submission of the July 1, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS, the EPA has timely completed all required work on the Draft EIR/EIS.
6. Provide a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Response: At present, there are no foreseeable problems that may delay the completion of the EIR/EIS beyond September 30, 2002.

Respectively submitted on behalf of Defendants County of Inyo, City of Los Angeles, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power this thirty first day of July 2002.

____________________________
Paul N. Bruce, County Counsel
Gregory L. James, Special Legal Counsel
By: Randy Keller, Deputy County Counsel
Attorneys for Defendant County of Inyo






DECLARATION OF SERVICE

CASE NAME: Sierra Club & Owens Valley Committee v. City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and County of Inyo

CASE NUMBER: Inyo County Superior Court Case No. S1CVCV01-29768

I am employed in the County of Inyo, over the age of 18 years and not a party to the within entitled action. My business address is 224 North Edwards Street, P.O. Box M, Independence, California 93526

On July 31, 2002, I served the foregoing document(s) described as:

Status Report on Preparation of Draft EIR/EIS

on all parties in said action, by causing a true copy thereof to be transmitted in a sealed envelope, addressed as shown below,

By Fax and U.S. Mail:

Donald B. Mooney, Esq.
Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney
129 C Street, Suite 2
Davis, CA 95616
Fax (530) 758-7169

Laurens H. Silver, Esq.
California Environmental Law Project
302 Sycamore Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Fax (415) 383-7995

Arthur B. Walsh, Esq.
Assistant City Attorney
City of Los Angeles
Post office Box 51111
Los Angeles, Ca 90051-0100
Fax (213) 367-4588

Gordon B. Burns
Deputy Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
1300 I Street, Suite 1101
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Fax (916) 322-5609




Attorney for Owens Valley Committee




Attorney for Sierra Club





Attorney for City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power




Attorney for Real Parties in Interest California State Lands Commission and California Department of Fish & Game

AND

[xx ] (By Mail) I personally deposited said envelope(s) with the United States Postal Service at Bishop, California with first class postage thereon fully prepaid.

[ ] (By Mail) I deposited such envelope(s) in the mail at Bishop, California. I am readily familiar with the County's practice whereby the mail, after being placed in a designated area, is given the appropriate first class postage and is deposited with the U.S. Postal Service on that same day.

[ ] (By Express Mail/Overnight Delivery) I caused such envelope to be delivered by hand to the office of the addressee via overnight delivery pursuant to C.C.P. § 1013(c), with delivery fees fully prepaid.

[xx ] (By Facsimile) By faxing a true copy to party(ies) listed.

[ ] (By Personal Service) I caused such envelope(s) to be delivered personally to the office(s) of addressee(s).

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.



Dated: July 31, 2002 _________________________________
Debra J. Gonzalez



Contacts:  Phone:

7/29/2002 Request a copy of the LORP DEIR/S now 
REQUEST YOUR COPY OF THE
LOWER OWENS RIVER PROJECT
DRAFT EIR/S NOW

The release of the Lower Owens River Project Draft Environmental Impact Report has been delayed multiple times, but not forgotten. Although the draft report still has not been released, you can add your name to the list of those waiting for a review copy and a chance to examine plans for the rewatering of sixty miles of the lower Owens River.

Please address LORP DEIR/S requests to Leah Kirk, Inyo County Water Department, 163 May Street, Bishop CA 93514, or to [inyowaterdept@telis.org]. By requesting a copy in advance, you'll not only see a copy sooner, but you'll also make life more livable for Inyo County's Water Department, which will need time to reproduce the hefty reports.

The Owens Valley Committee (www.ovcweb.org) and Sierra Club (Range of Light Water Committee) will be analyzing the DEIR/S and assisting people with their comments.

If you're frustrated by the delays, write the editor of your local newspaper, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors (P.O. Drawer N, Independence, CA 93526), the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Room 1555 H, 15th floor, 111 North Hope Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012), or your local representatives (see Take Action: Make Contact for a list of local addresses) to urge that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power produce the long-overdue draft environmental impact report.

More contacts:

Inyo County Water Department
163 May St.
Bishop, CA 93514
760.872.1168
inyowaterdept@telis.org
www.inyowater.org

Owens Valley Committee
Mike Prather 760.876.5807 (prather@qnet.com)
Mark Bagley 760.873.5326 (markbagley@qnet.com)



Contacts:  Mike Prather prather@qnet.com Phone: 760-876-5807

7/6/2002 July 1st status to the Superior Court regarding progress on the Draft EIR on the Lower Owens River  
The attached July 1st status report resulted from efforts by the Sierra Club
(SC) and the Owens Valley Committee(OVC) to involve the courts in overseeing the progress of the Draft EIR (DEIR) for the Lower Owens River Project(LORP). The LORP would rewater approximately 60 miles of the lower Owens River above Owens Lake and is a result of the 1997 Inyo County / Los Angeles Long-Term Water Agreement. The DEIR for the project was due in June of 2000. After signing on in good faith twice to time extensions for the DEIR in 2001, the Sierra Club and the Owens Valley Committee finally after 18 months went to Superior Court in December of 2001 and asked for the court to become involved. In May of 2002 the Sierra Club and OVC agreed to not begin the fact finding discovery phase of our lawsuit in return for Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power stipulating to the court that they would have their DEIR released to the public by August 31, 2002 (or provide a list of reasons as to why they could not) and would also provide the court with three status reports on July 1, July 31 and August 15. See the attached report for required details of the status reports.

Attached you will find the July 1, 2002 status report that hints that the DEIR may be delayed another four weeks past August 31, 2002. The Sierra Club and the Owens Valley Committee asks who or what is really causing this prolonged delay? The Lower Owens River Project represents the largest and most significant mitigation for the devastating impacts of LADWP's ground water pumping from 1970-1990. Fish Springs and Blackrock Springs each supplied water for fish hatcheries with no pumping. Hines Springs had 1-2 acres of ponds and sloughs plus acres of marsh. All three of these springs are extinct from groundwater pumping by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It is now 32 years since 1970. How much longer should the Owens Valley have to wait for a small measure of healing?

Michael Prather
President - Owens Valley Committee




PAUL N. BRUCE, (081619) ROCKARD J. DELGADILLO
Inyo County Counsel City Attorney
224 North Edwards Street PHILIP SHINER
P.O. Box M Chief Assistant City Attorney for
Independence, California 93526 Water and Power
(760) 878-0229 ARTHUR B. WALSH (89732)
(760) 878-2241 (fax) Assistant City Attorney
111 North Hope Street, Suite 340
GREGORY L. JAMES P.0. Box 51111
Special Legal Counsel (055760) Los Angeles, California 90051-0100
163 May Street (213) 367-4591
Bishop, California 93514
(760) 872-1168
(760) 873-5695 (fax)

Attorneys for Defendant Attorneys for Defendant City of Los
County of Inyo Angeles by and through its Department
of Water and Power


IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

FOR THE COUNTY OF INYO



SIERRA CLUB, and OWENS ) Case No.: S1CVCV01-29768
VALLEY COMMITTEE )
) STATUS REPORT ON PREPARATION
Plaintiffs ) OF DRAFT EIR/EIS
)
)
v. )
)
CITY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS )
ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF )
WATER AND POWER; and )
county of inyo )
)
Defendants )
)
)
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF )
FISH AND GAME; and CALIFORNIA )
STATE LANDS COMMISSION )
)
Real Parties in Interest. )
On May 29, 2002, the parties to this litigation, and the California Department of Fish and
Game and the California State Lands Commission (as Real Parties in Interest) filed a
stipulation in the above entitled case (“Stipulation”). Section 2 of the Stipulation provides as
follows:
Defendants will prepare the Draft EIR/EIS in accordance with the schedule attached hereto as Exhibit "A." (Hereinafter "Schedule.") On July 1, 2002, July 31, 2002, and August 15, 2002, Defendants, either jointly or separately, will submit to the Court, the Plaintiffs, and the Real Parties in Interest, a status report on the preparation of the EIR/EIS. The status report shall include: (1) whether all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, has been completed; (2) a description of any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, that has not been completed; (3) an explanation of why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed; (4) a statement of whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002; (5) a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS and (6) a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
This document is the July 1, 2002 status report on the Draft EIR/EIS that is required by Section 2 of the Stipulation. As provided in Section 2 of the Stipulation, this status report is jointly submitted by Defendants County of Inyo and the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“LADWP”).
Under California law, LADWP is the lead agency, and the County of Inyo is a responsible agency. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is the federal lead agency. Ecosystem Sciences Incorporated (“ESI”), a contractor for Defendant LADWP, is assisting in the preparation of the Draft EIR/EIS. ESI was selected by the MOU parties to undertake certain work under the direction of Defendants in regard to the LORP. URS is the consultant who is preparing the Draft EIR/EIS. As agreed by the Defendants, URS is performing such work under a contract with Defendant County of Inyo. Hereinafter, these entities and organizations are sometimes collectively referred to as “those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS.”
1. Has all work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report, been completed?
Response: No.
2. Describe any work required by the Schedule to be completed as of the date of the report that has not been completed.
Response: The Schedule calls for consensus to have been reached on Chapters 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, and 13 by the date of this report. Consensus has not been reached on these chapters. Further, ESI is developing a revised Draft LORP Plan for incorporation into the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS. The Draft LORP Plan is contingent on consensus being reached on the Chapter 2 project description and has not been completed.
3. Explain why any work required by the Schedule to be completed, has not been completed.
Response:
Chapter 2 (the project description): During the past two weeks, and on July 1, 2002, ESI modified the descriptions of the Owens River Delta Habitat Area, the management goals for the delta area, and of the baseflows to be released to the delta area. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on the descriptions as soon as possible after the descriptions become available from Defendant LADWP and from ESI.
A draft of the Monitoring/Adaptive Management sections of Chapter 2 was prepared by Defendant County of Inyo and distributed to Defendant LADWP and to ESI on June 7, 2002. A response from ESI was received on June 26, 2002. On June 28, 2002, Defendant County of Inyo provided a revised draft of the Monitoring/Adaptive Management sections, incorporating comments and revisions provided by ESI for review to the others responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on content of the Monitoring/Adaptive Management section of Chapter 2 by July 3, 2002.
The EPA has requested a more detailed description of the areas within the Blackrock Waterfowl Habitat Area that will be flooded, and of the conversions of wetland vegetation that would occur in response to the flooding. In response to the EPA request, the descriptions were developed by ESI, and the descriptions are expected to be provided for review to those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS on July 1, 2002. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on these descriptions by July 3, 2002.
Once all the EIR/EIS chapters are finalized, Chapter 2 will be revised as necessary to be consistent with those chapters.
Chapter 4 (impacts of project on the Lower Owens River Riverine-Riparian Ecosystem): Following the submission of the Stipulation, Defendants and the EPA requested ESI to prepare a standardized description of vegetation types that will be employed in each of the chapters that address the impacts of the project. In regard to Chapter 4, such a description was provided by ESI during the week of June 24, 2002. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on the contents of Chapter 4 by July 3, 2002.
Chapter 6 (impacts of project on the Owens River Delta Habitat Area): Defendant LADWP and ESI are working to finalize the descriptions of the delta area, the management goals for the delta area, and of the baseflows to be released to the delta area. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on these descriptions, and on the impacts of the project to the delta area, as soon as possible after these descriptions become available from LADWP and from ESI.
A standardized description of vegetation types for the delta was provided by ESI during the week of June 24, 2002.
Chapter 7 (impacts of project on the Blackrock Waterfowl Habitat Area): Consensus cannot be reached on this chapter until EPA has agreed to the descriptions for the Blackrock Waterfowl Habitat Area that will be flooded, and to the description of the conversions of wetland vegetation that would occur in response to the flooding. However, those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS (including the EPA) will attempt to reach consensus on the contents of Chapter 7 by July 3, 2002. A standardized description of vegetation types for the Blackrock area was provided by ESI during the week of June 24, 2002.
Chapter 9 (impacts of project on threatened and endangered species): A draft of this chapter that incorporated the comments of Defendants and of the EPA was circulated for final review on May 30, 2002. Final comments were received from Defendant LADWP on June 17, 2002 and from the EPA on June 25, 2002. A revision incorporating the comments from those entities was circulated by Defendant County of Inyo to the EPA, ESI, URS, and Defendant LADWP during the week of June 24th. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on the contents of Chapter 9 by July 3, 2002.
Chapter 11 (impacts of the project as a whole, including water supply impacts): The content of this chapter will be provided to Defendants and to the EPA for review as part of the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS that will be prepared by URS. Those responsible for preparing the EIR/EIS will attempt to reach consensus on this chapter following the release of the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS.
Chapter 12 (comparison of alternatives): A revised draft of this chapter was provided by URS to Defendants County of Inyo and LADWP and to the EPA for review and comment on June 26, 2002. Comments on the chapter are to be exchanged by July 12, 2002.
Chapter 13 (consistency of project with Inyo County General Plan): A revised draft of this chapter was provided by URS to Defendants County of Inyo and LADWP and to the EPA for review and comment on June 17, 2002. Comments on the chapter were provided by the EPA on June 25, 2002. It is expected that consensus will be reached on Chapter 13 by July 3, 2002.
Draft LORP Plan: ESI cannot complete preparation of a revised LORP Plan until consensus is reached on the portions of Chapter 2 (the project description) that are necessary for completion of the plan. ESI reports that a draft of the LORP Plan should be available for review by Defendants, EPA and URS by July 19, 2002.
/
/
Administrative Draft EIR/EIS: URS will prepare an Administrative Draft EIR/EIS for review by Defendants County of Inyo and LADWP and by the EPA. The Schedule provides that the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS is to be completed by July 8, 2002; however, as a result of the delay in reaching consensus on the chapters discussed above, and because of the resulting additional editing, the necessity to insert new graphics, and the need to perform other work, URS reports that the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS will be not be released until August 5, 2002.
4. State whether the failure to complete any work required to be completed by the Schedule will potentially delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Response: Although the Defendants, ESI, URS and the EPA are attempting to overcome the past delays in achieving the Schedule, even if there are no further delays, it is possible that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS may be delayed beyond four weeks after August 31, 2002.
5. Provide a brief summary of the federal agency activity undertaken toward completion of the EIS component of the EIR/EIS.
Response: The EPA has provided timely comments on the portions of the Draft EIR/EIS described above. Many of the comments submitted by EPA requested information that the EPA thought should have been provided prior to the submission of the Stipulation. As a result of some of EPA’s comments, the Defendants, URS, ESI and the Bureau of Reclamation (the entity responsible for design the LORP pump station) have had to develop additional information in order to provide the information requested by the EPA.
6. Provide a description of any foreseeable problems that may delay the completion and release of the EIR/EIS beyond August 31, 2002.
Response: If consensus is not reached on the chapters as described above, and/or if the Administrative Draft EIR/EIS is not released by August 5, 2002, the release of the Draft EIR/EIS will likely be further delayed beyond four weeks after August 31, 2002.
/
/

Respectively submitted on behalf of Defendants County of Inyo, City of Los Angeles, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power this first day July 2002.

____________________________
Gregory L. James
Special Legal Counsel
County of Inyo
Contacts:  Mark Bagley (Sierra Club) markbagley@qnet.com Phone: 760.876.5326

4/28/2002 LADWP's 2002 pumping plan: spin-doctoring and incomplete analysis 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) released its proposed 2002 pumping plan recently. The plan calls for a slight increase over what LADWP proposed last year in spite of the fact that estimates for total runoff this year are even lower than last year's below-average total. In the cover letter accompanying the proposed pumping plan, LADWP's Gene Coufal presented a rationale for the proposed pumping. He wrote that, "Due to the success of the Drought Recovery Policy and associated ten consecutive years of low pumping, high water tables persist throughout the valley." This sentence is an excellent example of spin-doctoring and it is worthy of detailed examination.

First, note the adjective "low"describing past pumping. "Low" relative to what? LADWP's average annual pumping over the past 10 years has been approximately 74,500 acre feet. This is enough water to flood an area the size of Owens Lake one foot deep in water every year. Elsewhere in the Great Basin controversy has occurred over pumping volumes an order of magnitude smaller than this. Only LADWP would have the arrogance to refer to 75,000 acre feet of pumping as "low."

Next, note the adjective "high" describing water tables. This also is completely subjective. In this case, however, there is a biological standard which can be applied. The presence of groundwater-dependent vegetation is a good indicator of the long-term "average" water table depth over periods which may date back centuries. Groundwater-dependent plants could not exist if, in the long run, the water table stayed at a depth which could not be reached by their roots. According to data from the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD), water tables under only about half the well field parcels sampled have recovered to the rooting zone of native vegetation When water tables are considered with regard to this biological standard, what LADWP refers to as "high" turns out to be "below the long-term average" for about half the area of concern and "barely up to the long-term average" in the other half.

Finally, note the verb "persist." This word connotes a degree of longevity. It implies these "high" water table conditions have been around for a long time. According to ICWD data,in those areas where water tables have actually recovered to the rooting zone the recovery has only occurred in the past few years. This condition is not accurately described in LADWP's use of the word "persist".

Having presented a self-serving and biologically meaningless description of current water table conditions, LADWP then admits, "The limited pumping outlined below will likely lead to temporary decline in parts of most well fields." How long is "temporary"? Nowhere is the word "temporary" defined. How great will the decline be? Nowhere is the amount of the decline quantified. Under which parcels will the decline occur? Nowhere are the "temporarily" affected parcels identified.

Without further information on the affected parcels (including future management plans) how can the pumping program be reasonably evaluated at all? The vegetation protection goals of the Water Agreement are defined in terms of units of similar vegetation known as parcels – not in terms of the large areas of varied habitats known as well fields. LADWP presents its pumping plan primarily at the scale of the well field. If the pumping program is to be taken seriously there must be a parcel-based analysis of proposed pumping impacts.

Quite apart from the problem of the absence of adequate data upon which to make an evaluation, the Drought Recovery Policy (DRP) alone provides strong grounds for Inyo County to insist on changes in this proposed pumping program. The goal of the DRP is that "soil water in the rooting zone recover to a degree sufficient so that the vegetation protection goals of the [Water] Agreement are achieved (italics added)." The DRP also mandates "conservative management". In terms of wellfield vegetation parcels the goal of the DRP has been only partly attained. Nevertheless LADWP is again proposing to lower water tables and is not stating how much lower or when they will finally be allowed to recover to the rooting zone of groundwater-dependent vegetation. This is not "conservative" management.

It is up to our county supervisors to insist that the DRP be enforced and that proposed pumping be consistent with both goals of the Water Agreement: 1) insuring a reliable water supply to LA and, 2) avoiding significant environmental impacts in the Owens Valley. Examination of pumping records shows the first goal is being attained. Examination of well field vegetation shows the second goal is not. If the 2002 pumping plan is accepted as written, the recovery of water tables and vegetation will be postponed yet another year. This will increase the likelihood that the limits of drought-tolerance of even our hardy native plants will be exceeded and that recovery from the over-pumping and drought of the late 1980's will never occur.

Contacts:  Phone:

3/22/2002 EPA sides with OVC in opposing LADWP's plans for a larger LORP pumpback station 
The EPA concludes that LADWP’s proposal for a 150 cfs pump station is not well-supported and that available evidence strongly suggests LA prefers this alternative in order to build future capacity for additional water exports from Owens Valley.

The Lower Owens River Project (LORP) is mitigation for impacts caused by groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley. When initially proposed, many valley residents were concerned that this could be used as a “third barrel” of the aqueduct to export even more groundwater. To calm these fears, LADWP “promised” that it would not be used for this and pointed to the absolute 50 cfs limit to the pumpback station spelled out in the Longterm Groundwater Management Agreement. True to form, as soon as the writ was discharged from the Third District Court, LADWP set about re-interpreting the Longterm Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding by planning a 150 cfs pumpback station capable of exporting additional groundwater in excess of the mandated river flows.

As the EPA indicates below, LADWP's planning of a larger pumpback station has substantially delayed implementation of mitigation and is economically infeasible unless LA intends to increase groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley.



Full text of letter sent from EPA to LADWP

UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
REGION IX
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-3901

February 27, 2002

Mr. Jerry Gewe
Assistant General Manager-Water
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
PO Box 51111, Room 1455
Los Angeles, CA 90051

Dear Mr. Gewe:
As we discussed recently, EPA has identified the 50 cfs stand-alone pump station as its preferred alternative for the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is the alternative that was originally proposed for the LORP by LADWP and the other MOU parties. This was a difficult decision for EPA to make, as we realized that it would result in two different preferred alternatives for the two lead agencies in the EIR/EIS, and potentially, two different decisions in the final documents. This letter details EPA's concerns with the 150-cfs pump station alternative.

We have continued to consider all new information as it becomes available, and our conclusion remains: LADWP's proposal for a 150 cfs pump station is not well-supported. The available evidence strongly suggests that LADWP prefers this alternative in order to build future capacity to export additional water from the Owens Valley, presumably from expanded ground water pumping. Accordingly, the EIR/EIS must disclose these growth-inducing, cumulative and long-term impacts. In its current form, the draft EIR/EIS has not begun to address these impacts.

The LORP was originally conceived as mitigation for previous impacts related to groundwater pumping dating as far back as 1972, and the project was originally seen as a "win-win" when it was conceived (i.e., rewatering the Lower Owens River and wetlands areas, and allowing for up to 50 cfs to be pumped back to the aqueduct). The larger pump station, which was first proposed in February 2000, does not appear to be justified even under LADWP's own arguments, as summarized below.

Results of LADWP's Proposal

LADWP's change in the pump station proposal delayed the development of the EIR/EIS by over a year, while the other MOU parties responded to and negotiated with LADWP. As a non-signatory to the MOU, EPA was not involved in that process. However, we observed the process, and have actively sought solutions to the impasse, because we believe this project, .as originally proposed, can provide environmental and water-quality benefits to the Owens Valley. EPA has been contacted by Indian Tribes in the area, for whom we have a trust responsibility, as well as by other MOU parties, and we have heard widespread arguments against the larger proposal. While some of the parties who have contacted us adamantly oppose any suggestion that could potentially lead to a larger pump station in the future, some offered compromises, if LADWP could provide assurances that the pump station operations would be consistent with the LORD plan, and no additional groundwater pumping or other water exports would result. LADWP has been unwilling to provide any assurances that additional groundwater pumping to the pump station will not occur, or that the pump station will only be operated as originally conceived under the LORP. In fact, LADWP recently initiated studies to investigate the potential for additional groundwater extraction in the basin. LADWP staff have argued that LADWP wants to build the larger facility now because there simply is no chance that greater capacity would ever be approved in the future.

Summary of Analysis

Under NEPA, EPA must identify which alternative is environmentally preferable, and we must explain the basis on which a final decision is made. The smaller pump station alternative is clearly environmentally preferable. The discussion of alternatives can include economic considerations, so EPA requested to review LADWP's economic feasibility analysis in order to better understand LADWP's perspective on the larger pump station proposal. LADWP evidently had conducted its feasibility analysis under a different set of project assumptions: the entire seasonal habitat flow would reach the pump station, which would require supplementation over the length of the river, due to water losses. Since that time, LADWP has re-defined the seasonal habitat flow, so that losses would not be supplemented and the entire flow would not be provided along the entire river. This would affect the economic analysis. LADWP assured EPA that LADWP would be reviewing and updating its analysis, because LADWP was not interested in promoting a project that was not economically feasible.

We shared with you a table that we had developed from the EIR/EIS analysis, which showed that the 150-cfs pump station capacity would not be fully utilized at any time under standard LORP operations, assuming a water loss rate of 1 cfs/mi from the LA Aqueduct Intake to the pump station. This appears to be a reasonable and conservative estimate of loss from evaporation, transpiration and ground water infiltration, particularly if one considers that the project should result in additional growth of riparian vegetation. However, even if one considers the smallest possible loss rate of 0.3 cfs/mi (based on the lowest loss rate that was observed during the 1993 flow study), the capacity of the pump station would be utilized, at best, one day every other year, or 0.5 days per year on average. (Even the originally-proposed 50-cfs capacity pump station would be fully utilized only 2.5 days per year, on average, or 3.5 days per year using the lower loss rate.) Thus, the excess, underutilized capacity would provide strong incentive for LADWP to pump additional water from the Owens Valley.

EPA remains interested in reviewing your economic analysis when it becomes available. Meanwhile, we developed our own simplified analysis, in an effort to understand the arguments for and against the larger pump station for the purposes of the EIR/EIS. Our conclusions follow.

Enclosed, you will find an update of the table that we originally provided you, which shows the amount of water that could be pumped under the two main project options from the Lower Owens River. In theory, this water could be valued at a price up to the replacement cost of water purchased from Metropolitan Water District (MWD). Our conclusion is that, if water losses are minimal along the 62-mile river reach, the larger pump station may net LADWP about 180 AF per year, on average, over the 50 cfs option. This would be worth only about $58,000 per year, which is slightly less than a 2% o annual return on the additional investment, assuming a relatively high replacement value ($323 per AF). This does not include the additional costs of maintenance, or of litigation that LADWP will likely face if it decides to build the larger pump station.

Even using a smaller loss rate, which we are not confident that the evidence will support, the larger project will net, at most, 435 AF per year, on average, or up to $141,000 per year. Thus, using assumptions that are extremely favorable to the larger project, LADWP may realize, at best, less than a 5% annual return on the additional investment, but only if additional maintenance, litigation or related costs are not factored in.

Our analysis uses the current U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) cost estimates for constructing the 50-cfs and 150-cfs pump stations, which show that a stand-alone 50 cfs pump station (the original proposal) will cost approximately $5 million. The additional cost of the 150 cfs pump station is estimated at $3 million, for a total of nearly $8 million. (USBR is currently revising these estimates, which will include additional costs for the expanded options that were not included in the original estimate.) Using the proportions of full service and local project water versus stored water that LADWP has purchased from MWD over the last 10 years (70% and 30%, respectively, calculated from quantities available on the MWD website), we assigned an overall value of $323 per AF to the pumped water. Using the full-service water value of $349 per AF is not realistic, as water purchased from MWD has never been comprised completely of this higher-value water during the period of record available from MWD.

Assuming a 5% rate for the cost of financing the project (municipal bonds, presumably) and throwing in a 1% annual increase in the cost of replacement water from MWD, it could still take up to 70 years to recover just the construction cost difference between the larger pump station and the original proposal, assuming that very little water is lost in the 62-mile reach between the Intake and the pump station.

Conclusions

LADWP's proposal for the larger pump station does not appear to be economically or environmentally justified. Pushing the proposal forward will continue LADWP's litigious relationship with Inyo County and the other MOU parties, which may result in significant and unrecoverable financial and public-relations burdens for the City of Los Angeles.

EPA, as a major contributor to the LORP (with over $6 million currently earmarked for the project, including over $1.5 million for the City of Los Angeles), must meet fiscal and legal requirements in funding the project. Among them is the requirement to produce an adequate EIS, which fully discloses all the impacts of the project to the public and decision-makers, and to consider public comments on the proposal. EPA is also required to document our decision, which becomes part of the public record. Given the public scrutiny that this project is likely to undergo, we are concerned about LADWP's continued preference for the larger pump station, and we will require that the draft EIR/EIS adequately disclose all impacts, including growth-inducing, cumulative, and long-term impacts.

The original 50-cfs pump station alternative is the better proposal to meet the intent of the LORP ' for the purposes of EPA's funding. Should LADWP decide to go ahead with the 150-cfs alternative, LADWP would be responsible for all costs above those that would be incurred by EPA's selected project. Even under that scenario, full disclosure of impacts associated with the larger pump station alternative will be required.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. If you would like further discussion, please call me at 415-972-3456.

Sincerely yours,

Janet Parrish
Monitoring and Assessment Office (WTR-2)





Contacts:  Phone:

3/19/2002 High Country News treads the gumbo of a dusty lake 
Matt Jenkins, assistant editor for High Country News, examined the Owens Lake and Los Angeles this March in "A dusty lake is plumbed halfway back to life," a "Reporter's Notebook" essay in the March 18, 2002 issue of High Country News. Due to copyright considerations, we can't post the article here, but to see the article, which includes details about the lake dust control project, Los Angeles' goals, and an interview with Mike Prather--president of the Owens Valley Committee--go to the High Country News website at [www.hcn.org]. The High Country News archives contain a wealth of articles on water issues in the West. Useful search terms for the archives include Owens Valley, Owens Lake, Los Angeles, and water.
Contacts:  Phone:

3/10/2002 LADWP tries to evade its responsibility to 'avoid' impacts 
At the Inyo County Water Commission meeting of February 4, 2002 LADWP's consultant Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) gave a presentation regarding the Drought Recovery Policy (DRP). After hearing MWH categorically assert that the condition of native vegetation has no role in determining whether the DRP is still in effect, MWH was asked how it could justify this assertion.

MWH's response was that vegetation change is discussed in section I.C.1. of the Green Book, and, by implication this superceded the goal and methodology specified in the DRP itself. The passage of the Green Book cited, however, is a discussion relating to mitigation of pumping impacts that have already occurred. It is a discussion of how the Technical Group will determine, after the fact, that impacts are attributable to groundwater pumping and are candidates for mitigation.

This argument is disturbing. That is because in the ongoing McNally Canal dispute LADWP cited the same passage of the Green Book in its response to Inyo County's complaint. It is as irrelevant to the McNally Canals dispute as it is to the interpretation of the DRP.

The vegetation protection goals of the Water Agreement are to "avoid" certain prescribed impacts (section III. A.). In the EIR accompanying the Agreement, the "avoid" clause is mentioned repeatedly in response to public comments. In effect, people were told not to worry because implementation of the Water Agreement would "avoid" the occurrence of impacts. Section I.C.1. of the green Book (cited by MWH) is a last resort, to be used only when the Technical Group has failed to carry out its mandate to "avoid" impacts in the first place.

By citing section I.C.1. of the Green Book in both the McNally Canals dispute and in interpreting the DRP, LADWP is ignoring its clearly stated obligation to "avoid" impacts and arguing, implicitly, that its only obligation is to mitigate impacts after they have occurred and are permanent. If this argument is accepted, it will render much of the Water Agreement meaningless. Inyo County will be reduced to watching helplessly as impacts occur. It will be able only to ask for mitigation after impacts have occurred and are permanent rather than cooperating with LADWP to prevent impacts in the first place. It is unlikely that anyone in Inyo County would have ever accepted the Water Agreement had they thought this is what it really meant.

The McNally Canals dispute has gone to court. Because this is the first test of the "avoid" clause of the Water Agreement and of LADWP's arguments to evade it, the court's decision may affect much more that just the operation of the McNally Canals.




Contacts:  Phone:

2/25/2002 LADWP reports on its community outreach program 
On the agenda for the February 19 meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners was an interesting item: an "informational letter" to the Board documenting the progress of the "Northern District Community Outreach Plan." In November 2001 (shortly after LA Water and Power Commissioner Dominic Rubalcava boasted that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's [LADWP] budget for litigation was larger than Inyo County's entire annual budget) it was decided to initiate a community outreach program in the Owens Valley. The letter submitted to the February 19 meeting was a report documenting the progress of the new program.

The report's summary includes the observation that "Due to LADWP's long and controversial history in the Eastern Sierra, local public opinion of LADWP is mixed." This must have come as a real surprise to the LA Water Commissioners! The summary went on to conclude that "providing timely, accurate information on LADWP activities, along with focused outreach efforts, is expected to improve the public perception of LADWP."

If LADWP really wishes to improve the public's perception of it, it need only to start showing good faith in carrying out its obligations under the Long Term Inyo-LA Water Agreement and associated EIR and MOU. The fact that the Department is already a defendant in two lawsuits regarding its failure to comply with the Water Agreement should give the LA Water Commissioners a hint that LADWP's problems are not simply a matter of public perception. Familiarity with the aphorism "actions speak louder than words" would eliminate the need for the "community outreach" program entirely.

Some other noteworthy items from the informational letter:
1) A newsletter promoting the self-serving interpretation of the Drought Recovery Policy developed by LADWP's consultant Montgomery Watson Harza will be sent to all Owens Valley residences. LADWP newsletters regarding other subjects are also under consideration.
2) LADWP is considering creating an "Owens Valley Alliance group" to provide a forum for LADWP to "provide information about ongoing activities" and receive input regarding "...issues of importance, concerns and needs of Owens Valley residents." This is a particularly cynical strategy. LADWP knows that the Inyo-LA Technical Group and the Inyo County Water Commission are established forums with the same objectives that LADWP gives for its "Owens Valley Alliance". The intent seems to be to "divide and conquer" – by creating a so-called "citizens group" it will confuse the public and provide a means to attempt to challenge the credibility of the existing forums.

The potential fly in LADWP's ointment, however, will come when it attempts to recruit members for its new organization. Does it seriously expect to find people knowledgeable about the Water Agreement who will donate their free time to serve on LADWP's committee? If not, how much will it pay people to be members?

What would be your price to become a dupe for LADWP? $1000? $10,000? $1,000,000? Would LADWP throw in health insurance as part of the deal? I hope readers will engage in some serious soul-searching on this question and make up your minds soon – you never know when the recruiter for the Owens Valley Alliance will call!




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2/15/2002 LADWP distances itself from its own consultant regarding Drought Recovery Policy 
In a letter to the editor of the Inyo Register of 2/14/02, Mr Gene Coufal (Manager of the LADWP Aqueduct Business Group) wrote that the LADWP had "not yet offered any opinion as to the validity of the work done by MWH [Montgomery Watson Harza] or the conclusions of the DRP (Drought Recovery Policy) Evaluation Report they produced." Because LADWP had commissioned MWH's evaluation of the DRP and sponsored its presentation to the Technical Group, the Inyo County Water Commission, and the Inyo County Supervisors, it had been widely thought that MWH's evaluation represented LADWP's interpretation of the DRP. Mr Coufal's comments suggest LADWP may be realizing what is clear to everyone who has heard MWH's presentation: that MWH's policy interpretation is fatally flawed and should be put out of its misery as soon as possible.
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2/5/2002 Inyo Water Commission not persuaded by LADWP's Drought Recovery Policy interpretation 
At the Inyo County Water Commission meeting Monday, February 4, 2002, LADWP's consultants Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) gave a presentation regarding the Drought Recovery Policy (DRP). It was a splendid example of how a skilled consultant can selectively read a simple document to reach the conclusion desired by his client.

After asserting that wording in the DRP was not very specific and that MWH needed to find guidance as to what "substantial recovery" (in the second paragraph of the DRP) means, MWH was unable to explain why it didn't look in the first paragraph of the DRP where a very specific and measurable goal for the DRP is stated ("soil water in the rooting zone recover to a degree sufficient so that the vegetation protection goals of the [Water] Agreement are achieved.")

Instead of defining "substantial" with regard to rooting zone depths as the DRP requires, MWH instead equated "substantial" with "80% of the drawdown" regardless of whether this was in the rooting zone or not. To justify this it cited five papers from ecological journals in which the word "substantial" had been used. When it was pointed out that none of the five articles had anything to do with groundwater management and that none of the articles intended to give general definitions of "substantial" MWH had no response.

MWH asserted that vegetation condition is not a criterion for the termination of the DRP. Although the goals and implementation methods of the DRP explicitly require monitoring to evaluate condition of vegetation, MWH cited a passage in the Green Book which relates to mitigation and describes procedures for determining if vegetation change is permanent and attributable to ground water pumping. When it was pointed out that the objective of the Water Agreement is to "avoid" significant impacts to vegetation, not to simply let them occur and then mitigate, MWH made no response.

After MWH's presentation and one by the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD), the Water Commissioners discussed the issue. Three of the four members present stated that they concurred with ICWD's arguments that the DRP requires vegetation condition to be considered, that water tables must return to the rooting zone and that the DRP requires analysis at the scale of the vegetation parcel as opposed to the wellfield. The fourth commissioner, Mr. Kenny Lloyd, did not disagree with LADWP and MWH and stated that he needed more information.




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1/17/2002 Inyo County Water Department reports on status of mitigation projects -- many are behind schedule  
See http://www.inyowater.org/Mitigation_Measures/Default.htm or click on "Mitigation" link on our issues page.
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1/17/2002 County announces two vacancies on the Water Commission 

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors is now accepting applications to fill two vacant positions on the Inyo County Water Commission. Submit a request for appointment and a brief but pertinent resumé before 5 p.m., January 31, 2002 to the Board of Supervisors (attn: Pat Gunsolley), P.O. Drawer N, Independence, CA 93526. Terms for these two positions will end December 31, 2005.

For more information, please call Doug Daniels at the Inyo County Water Department at 872-1168.

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12/26/2001 OVC and SC sue LA over failure to prepare draft EIR on LORP 
LAURENS H. SILVER (SBN 55339)
CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL LAW PROJECT
302 Sycamore Avenue
Mill Valley, California 94941
Telephone: (415) 383-5688
Facsimile: (415) 383-7995

Attorney for SIERRA CLUB


LAW OFFICE OF DONALD B. MOONEY
DONALD B. MOONEY (SBN 153721)
129 C Street, Suite 2
Davis, California 95616
Telephone: (530) 758-2377
Facsimile: (530) 758-7169

Attorney for OWENS VALLEY COMMITTEE


IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF INYO

COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

SIERRA CLUB, and OWENS VALLEY COMMITTEE
Plaintiffs

v.

CITY OF LOS ANGELES; and LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND POWER
Defendants

COUNTY OF INYO; CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME; CALIFORNIA STATE LANDS COMMISSION, and CARLA SCHEIDLINGER
Real Parties in Interest.


INTRODUCTION
1. Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to enforce a term of a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), entered into by the County of Inyo, the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“City” or “LADWP”), the Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, the California Department of Fish and Game, the State Lands Commission, and Carla Scheidlinger, requiring the City to prepare a draft environmental impact report (“EIR”) for the Lower Owens River Project (“LORP”) by June 13, 2000. The City, without proper cause, has failed to complete the draft EIR, despite an agreement of the parties to extend the time for completion of the draft EIR through October 26, 2001. The City has breached of its obligation under the MOU, and has requested yet another extension of time through February 18, 2002, which the other signatories of the MOU have not consented to. This suit seeks an order from the Court requiring the City to comply with its obligations under the MOU to prepare and circulate a draft EIR, and declaring that the City, without just reason, and for reasons that are not beyond its control, is in breach of its MOU obligation.

--To view the full text of the complaint, see "Suit on failure to prepare LORP EIR" under Issues.--


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12/19/2001 New LADWP General Manager Selected 
Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn selected--and the Los Angeles City Council and the Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved--David Wiggs to lead the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Wiggs has served as an interim general manager since May. Previous chief David Freeman left the position to work for Governor Gray Davis as an energy advisor.

Before joining the Department of Water and Power, Wiggs served as chief energy advisor to state Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (Democrat - Sherman Oaks).

For more information, please see the following articles in the Los Angeles Times Archives at /www.latimes.com/:

"Hahn Picks David Wiggs to Run DWP" Dec. 15 2001 p. B6
"Interim Chief Wiggs to Become Head of DWP" Dec. 19 2001 p. B4
"DWP Chief to Receive $326,000 in Pay, Stipend" by Patrick McGreevy, Jan. 17 2002

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12/18/2001 LADWP says Drought Recovery Policy does not apply to vegetation 
At the Technical Group meeting of 12/10/01 a representative of LADWP's consultant (Montgomery Watson Harza) gave a presentation explaining LADWP's interpretation of the Drought Recovery Policy (DRP). First, extensive data were presented showing that the drought of the late 1980's-early 1990's is over. This has never been in dispute.

The consultant also explained that the only criterion to be used in determining whether the DRP applies to a wellfield is whether there has been a "substantial recovery in soil moisture and water table conditions" in the wellfield. This is taken from a single sentence in the second paragraph of the DRP. The consultant explained he had determined "substantial" to mean 80% of the total drawdown during the drought. Questioning by Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) staff revealed that the consultant's decision to equate "substantial" with "80%" was arbitrary. It was based upon no ecological or environmental data at all.

The consultant then showed data suggesting that all wellfields met his definition of "substantial recovery" and that therefore the DRP no longer applies. In questioning by the public, the consultant re-iterated the fact that according to LADWP's interpretation, the only factor to be considered in determining whether the DRP applies to a wellfield is whether a "substantial" recovery in the water table has occurred, and that the condition of wellfield vegetation is irrelevant.

Had LADWP or Montgomery Watson Harza's staff taken the trouble to read the first paragraph of the DRP, they would have seen that the interpretation they proposed is simplistic and untenable. The DRP specifies that the goal is recovery of soil water in the rooting zone, and that consideration of the condition of vegetation is required:

"The goal of this policy [the Drought Recovery Policy] is that soil water within the rooting zone recover to a degree sufficient so that the vegetation protection goals of the [Inyo-LA Water] Agreement are achieved. To this end, groundwater pumping during this drought, as well as the period of recovery, will be conducted in an environmentally conservative manner, taking into consideration soil water, water table, and vegetation conditions.... Further, soil water, water tables, and vegetation conditions will be monitored by the Technical Group to ensure that the goal of this policy is being achieved...."

For the past three years ICWD has written and presented to the Technical Group detailed analyses of every parcel within every wellfield with regard to the status of soil moisture, water table, and vegetation. ICWD used these data to make a determination of whether the goals of the DRP had been met for the parcel and whether the DRP still applied. LADWP has never made any public comments on any of these reports.

ICWD's interpretation represents a good-faith attempt to consider all the factors specified in the DRP and determine whether the recovery goals are being met. LADWP's interpretation would turn the DRP into an arbitrary numbers game in which achievement of the goal of the policy is irrelevant and - just by coincidence - pumping constraints of the DRP will be removed.



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12/9/2001 Bristlecone CNPS says Water Agreement/EIR/MOU should take precedence over General Plan 
The Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society sent a letter to the Inyo
County Supervisors supporting the Owens Valley Committee's position that provisions of the
Inyo-LA Water Agreement/EIR/MOU should take precedence over the county General Plan in
cases where the documents are in conflict. The text of the letter is given below.


December 7, 2000




Inyo County Board of Supervisors
County Court House
Independence, CA 93526

Dear Supervisors:

I am writing with regard to the proposed revision of the Inyo
County General Plan currently under your consideration. Members
of the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
CNPS) spent many hours over many years working to secure approval
of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement and remedy its deficient
EIR through negotiation of the associated MOU. While we have,
unfortunately, become accustomed to efforts by the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power to disregard provisions of these
documents, we are disappointed to see the Inyo County Planning
Department doing the same thing. I am referring to portions of
the proposed general plan which are inconsistent with these
documents.

Just as the county has taken a strong position with regard to
the McNally Canals and the size of the pumpback station for the
Lower Owens River Project, the county should also adhere to the
Agreement/EIR/MOU with regard to mitigation projects and Type E
vegetation. Please remember all the work and years of negotiations
that went into these agreements.

On behalf of the Bristlecone Chapter of CNPS I respectfully
request that you adopt a policy asserting the supremacy of the
Water Agreement, EIR, and MOU in any cases where conflicts may
arise between these documents and the General Plan. Thank you for
considering our views.


Sincerely,
original signed by Daniel Pritchett

Daniel Pritchett
Conservation Chair
Bristlecone Chapter, CNPS
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12/4/2001 Supervisors hear concerns about conflicts between Water Agreement and Proposed General Plan 
Dear Members of the Board;

The Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club urges the Inyo County
Board of Supervisors to stand firm in seeing that the commitments in
the Long Term Water Agreement, the 1991 EIR, and the 1997 MOU are
fulfilled. We are especially concerned that the Board ensures that
all of the mitigation measures, including maintenance of Type E
vegetation, be implemented as promised in the Agreement and EIR.
These measures, which provide valuable environmental and economic
benefits to the Owens Valley, are binding commitments on the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power and Inyo County. The
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that identified
mitigation measures be implemented. The mitigation measures in the
EIR, along with all of the other provisions of the Agreement and EIR,
received extensive scrutiny by the public and the Board before being
formally approved by the Board.

At issue today is the Board's consideration of the County General
Plan Update which at this time includes six sites where
enhancement/mitigation (E/M) project areas, designated as mitigation
measures in the Water Agreement and EIR, are designated in the
proposed general plan for land uses other than mitigation and more
than a dozen sites where Type E vegetation areas are designated for
residential, commercial, industrial, or public service facility uses
(Attachment 1). We strongly urge the Board to make a clear statement
at this time that the land use designations for these mitigation and
Type E vegetation areas must be consistent with their intended uses
as set forth in the Water Agreement and EIR. Residential,
commercial, industrial, or public service facility uses are not
consistent with these intended uses. We strongly believe it is
premature to base General Plan land use designations on Land & Water
Advisory Committee recommendations where those recommendations are
not consistent with the intended use of E/M project areas as set
forth in the Water Agreement and EIR. The General Plan should
reflect the current required use for those lands.

Every word and action by the Board, including the county's General
Plan Update, should send a clear message to LADWP and the citizens of
Inyo County that the Board has every intention of seeing that the
mitigation measures and all the other commitments in the Water
Agreement come to pass. It is now four and a half years since the
Water Agreement and EIR have taken effect and none of the new (i.e.
previously unimplemented) E/M projects or other EIR mitigations that
are for damage to or loss of vegetation and wildlife habitats have
been implemented. It is time for the Board to insist that those
projects and mitigations move forward quickly.

There are basically two areas where Land & Water Advisory Committees
have recommended LADWP land divestment and residential use within E/M
project areas. These are in the Independence East Side Regreening
and Big Pine Northeast Regreening projects. We do not believe that
the Committees have shown a compelling need for siting these
divestment areas within E/M project areas, they have not shown that
the same residential uses could not occur elsewhere. There is far
more LADWP land available for release and development than there is
in mitigation, and conflict within the communities can be avoided if
lands selected for development are not mitigation lands. As set
forth in the Water Agreement and EIR, if the County wants to modify
these two E/M projects it must get the agreement of the Standing
Committee, it must be in full compliance with CEQA, and the Standing
Committee must make certain findings. Because these E/M projects
provide on-site mitigation of loss of vegetation and wildlife
habitats due to groundwater pumping that have been identified as
significant impacts, we believe that converting a portion of the
mitigation areas to residential use will have a significant adverse
affect and will require that an EIR be prepared to comply with CEQA.
In order to make the modification to the E/M project we believe the
Standing Committee must then make a finding that a new mitigation
measure will be implemented which will reduce the identified adverse
effect of the modification to a level which is less than significant.
Surely, though, this path is not in the County's best interest. The
E/M projects were decided upon in a public process and agreed to by
the County and LADWP. A deal is a deal.

Therefore, the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club requests the following:

1. That the Board direct Planning Department and Water Department
staff to ensure that the designated uses in the new Inyo County
General Plan accurately and consistently reflect all existing and
planned mitigation measures and Type E vegetation, as called for in
the Water Agreement and EIR. The appropriate designations for these
lands are agriculture, open space, or natural resources. To do
anything less is to send an official signal to LADWP that the Board
is wavering in its commitment to make these projects come to pass.
Setting such a precedent puts at risk every hard-won mitigation
measure and every environmental protection in the agreement, EIR, and
MOU that was promised to the citizens of Inyo County.

2. That the Board direct staff to report to the Board on the status
of all E/M projects, EIR mitigation measures, and Type E lands in the
Owens Valley and that the Board ensure that each E/M project,
mitigation measure and area of Type E vegetation is being maintained
as described in the Water Agreement and EIR.

The E/M projects, mitigation measures and Type E vegetation lands
contained in the agreement and EIR are legally binding commitments on
LADWP and Inyo County to mitigate impacts caused by DWP's water
exports and to provide permanent benefits to the environment. These
projects, which were promised to the citizens of Inyo County many
years ago, were a large part of the reason many residents supported
the approval of the Water Agreement. The County's citizens now look
to the Board to stand firm in making these promises reality. We hope
the Board will favorably consider and adopt the views expressed in
this letter.

Sincerely,
original signed by Mark Bagley
Mark Bagley
Sierra Club

original signed by Mike Prather
Mike Prather
Owens Valley Committee

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11/27/2001 LADWP reverses the flow 
Many years after diverting Owens River water to aqueducts and away from its natural path to the Owens Lake, Los Angeles has succeeded in piping water from an aqueduct to the lake bed.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) officially began shallow flooding on a small portion of the Owens Lake bed this November as a dust control measure. Dust storms from the drying lake bed carry naturally occuring toxic chemicals, egregiously exceed federal clean air standards, and threaten the health of local residents.

As part of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, LADWP will be irrigating approximately 10 square miles of the lake bed by December to control dust. Further dust control measures will include salt grass cultivation on a small portion of the lake bed.

LADWP has promised to meet federal clean air standards in the area by 2006.
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11/20/2001 Supervisors meet to discuss General Plan 
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors will hold a public meeting Tuesday, November 20, at 3 p.m. in Independence to discuss the county General Plan. Call your Supervisor and, if possible, attend the meeting (at the Administrative Center next to the Court House) to request that the General Plan be modified to be consistent with the Inyo-Los Angeles Water agreement, the 1991 EIR, and the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding. Urge, especially, that LADWP be required to meet all of its legal obligations so that legal agreements between Inyo and the City of Los Angeles are not weakened by an inconsistent General Plan.




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11/19/2001 OVC to develop new web site  
OVC will design, maintain, and host a web site containing information on water and land management issues. It will include News & Event sections that are updated daily with new information.
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