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
*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

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