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 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 Phone: 760.876.5807