News

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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